The last time Mathieu Corbeil started a game at the Metro Centre, he ended up being pulled and spent the better part of two periods in the dressing room, contemplating his predicament.
Things hadn’t been going well for the 19-year-old Halifax Mooseheads goaltender in an up-and-down season, and it was starting to wear on him.
“There are always times in hockey where nothing goes right and hockey’s not your favourite sport anymore and you’re just not having fun,” Corbeil says.
That night, Nov. 12, certainly wasn’t fun. He allowed two goals on three shots in nine minutes in a 5-1 loss to P.E.I., just a week after allowing three goals on six shots in a third-period meltdown that cost his team dearly in a 5-4 loss to Shawinigan.
A case could be made that the Mooseheads would have won both games with better goaltending, so head coach Bobby Smith switched to rookie Anthony Terenzio for the next four games.
Corbeil, a fourth-round draft choice of the Columbus Blue Jackets, ended up getting what amounted to 14 days “off” to get his head on straight.
He says he realized he just wasn’t working hard enough, despite efforts to improve his technique under the guidance of goaltending consultant Eric Raymond — his third goalie coach in as many years.
“We’ve been really working on technique a lot, but it got to a point — I’m blaming it on myself, it’s all my fault — where I took the technique and thought it was going to stop pucks for me,” Corbeil says. “I didn’t think I’d need work ethic. But I realized pretty quick that wasn’t the case.”
He says he put his nose to the grindstone in practice and waited for a chance to prove himself again. When Terenzio got banged up during a game against Cape Breton on Nov. 26, Corbeil got back in the net.
He has since started four consecutive games, all on the road, and has a 2.63 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in his past three outings.
“Playing on the road was exactly what he needed,” says Smith. “Not only did he keep the goals-against down, he just looked in control, rebounds were sticking to him, he was catching the puck, and it was a very positive sign for the team.”
If the six-foot-six, 192-pound Montreal native can stay on top of his game, it will certainly boost the Mooseheads’ uncertain rebuilding effort.
Corbeil says he’s learned from his recent experience that a bad game is a bad game — well, two bad games are two bad games — and he can’t dwell on it.
“It can’t always go well … A goal-scorer can’t score every game and obviously, I’m going to have bad games,” he says. “Unfortunately, I had bad games in a row like that. But you have to fight through those times.
“I came back to practice and didn’t let go and didn’t give up. I came back stronger and tried to work harder in practice. It turned out well for me on the road trip.”
A big challenge lies ahead. With the Moncton Wildcats visiting the Metro Centre tonight and the Quebec Remparts in town on Saturday, a solid, reliable Corbeil will be needed for the Mooseheads to have a chance. A solid, reliable Corbeil will also help him win back fans whose patience with him has started to wear thin.
“When you’re playing well, you keep playing well … When you’re playing bad, you keep playing bad,” he says. “It gets to be a vicious cycle. But I’ve been playing well the past three games, and I have to keep working hard and show everyone (what I can do) and get the Mooseheads fans back on track.”