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The National Hockey League season of 1944/45 was of course the year of the NHL's first 50 goal season by Maurice Richard. The Rocket scored 18 goals more than any other skater that year, but if the fates had been different, we may have seen a fantastic two-man race toward the elusive 50 goal barrier. Toronto Maple Leaf, Dave "Sweeney" Schriner had tallied an amazing 9 goals in his first 7 games that year. Perhaps, if not for an injury that cost him almost half the season, Sweeney Schriner may have joined Richard as the first 50 goal scorer.
The 33 year-old Schriner would be shutout in his 8th game but notched 2 goals on November 8, 1944 giving him 11 markers in 9 matches. This would be the game in which he would be injured. After which Schriner was quoted;"That's one time the coach can't say I wasn't back-checking." The Toronto Star described the injury; "Schriner says he was cruising in home waters looking for a stray puck when he saw Mush March pounce and start for (goaltender) McCool with dirt in his eye. He swung along with Mush and next thing he knew he was mushed into the steel upright. 'You should see this leg', said he, 'It's turned hard like cement.' Sweeney thinks the fibre leg pad he wore saved the limb from a fracture."
His 11 goals were four more than any other player to this point in the season, four more than even Maurice Richard, the man who would be the first to score 50. By mid-December, even though he had missed over a month of playing time, Schriner and his 17 points still sat 13th in the NHL points race. The Rocket tallied 12 goals in the 8 games since Schriner went down with his injury, giving Richard the goal scoring lead with 19 goals through 17 games, well on his way to history.
Schriner would spend the Christmas holidays at home in Calgary, resting his injured knee. He planned on returning to Toronto in the New Year but at that point coach Hap Day did not know when Schriner would be ready to put the skates on again. It took until January 6, for Schriner to begin a conditioning program, but he returned quickly to game shape and played on January 9. He notched one assist in that game versus the Rangers, then scored 2 goals in his second game back against Montreal.
As of early March, Schriner had played 12 games since returning to action, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists in the process. Certainly his pace had slowed down, but on the strength of his hot start he managed to reappear on the NHL's scoring leader table. On March 6, his 18 goals, 11 assists and 29 points placed him 29th in league scoring. Schriner finished strong with 4 goals and 8 points in his last 5 matches and ended up 22nd in points despite missing 24 of the 50 games. In fact, Schriner's 22 goals ranked him 13th in the NHL in 1944/45.It would have been difficult for him to continue his early season scoring rate through an entire season, but if not for his injury, he almost certainly would have bested second place goal man Herb Cain's 32, and might have even given the Rocket a run for first to 50.
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