Freshman goalie Jackson Chilberg sat in the net after two days of grueling tryouts.
He faced shots in every direction imaginable, and some went in, but most of the other shots did not.
After the last game finished, Chilberg was opened up to a new world: a roster spot on the team.
For Chilberg, the phrase student-athlete hits home. The son of two Ohio University graduates, paired with a higher education along with objectively one of the best American Collegiate Hockey Association teams in the nation, Chilberg and Athens were meant to be.
“I planned to attend the university regardless of hockey because both of my parents went here,” Chilberg said. “I didn’t want to put off school for junior hockey, so I wanted to be on a highly competitive club team.”
Competitive indeed, with the addition of Chilberg along with Mason Koster, the Bobcats now have three goalies under their belt once more after Aaron Alkema and Ryan Heltion graduated. Sophomore Jimmy Thomas will be looked upon to lead the two freshmen as they transition from different games into one: the Bobcats game.
Chilberg got his start in the quiet town of Cassadaga, New York, just an hour drive south of Buffalo. In upstate New York, hockey is not just a game. It is a way of life.
It is in these instances when the game becomes bigger than life and some have felt its negative effects. For Chilberg, actually making the team means that much more.
“I’m so lucky to finally be given an opportunity to prove myself in a positive environment,” Chilberg said. “In Buffalo, hockey was political, but I made the team here, and they didn’t look me over.”
That vote of confidence is something that every goalie craves from his coaching staff and teammates. Unproven, yes. Counted out? Not anymore.
A product of St. Francis High School back in New York, Chilberg, as a junior, saw time on the varsity squad, having appeared in eight games. In his senior season, Chilberg played for St. Francis’ travel team, a member of the Midwest Prep Hockey League.
Grateful for the opportunity to be a Bobcat, Chilberg carries a chip on his shoulder that he credits to his mental strength.
“Through all types of adversity and any situation, I just focus on my game,” he said.
No athlete comes out on top without having faced adversity, and Chilberg is no exception. Chilberg faced constant criticism from former teammates, coaches and even other parents back in New York.
Put aside all the off-ice antics and drama, because Chilberg has arrived just to do one thing: Play hockey.