Jackson Chilberg was anxiously waiting to get to the rink throughout Saturday. It was to the point where he couldn't take a pregame nap.
Chilberg, a junior goaltender, has set on the bench behind Bobcats' starting goalie Jimmy Thomas every game this season. After Friday night's win over Slippery Rock at Bird Arena, he was told by coach Cole Bell that he was getting his first start of the season in Saturday’s series finale.
His first start couldn't have come on a better day. Chilberg turned 20 on Saturday, and he made sure there was plenty to celebrate.
Chilberg notched a 5-0 win over Slippery Rock to record his first career shutout in just his third collegiate start. His teammates mobbed him at the blue line after a quality performance in which he made 22 saves and ensured that the Bobcats’ offensive efforts wouldn’t go to waste.
"Once I got to the rink, I got the little butterflies going," Chilberg said. "Once I got that first shot, I was in the zone ready to go."
The final two and a half minutes of the game crawled by as Slippery Rock started to generate quality chances. Perhaps the best chance of the night came during that stretch. Slippery Rock had a two-on-one opportunity, but Chilberg denied the shot with his blocker to preserve the shutout.
"I got a nice blocker save," Chilberg said. "It threw me for a loop there a little bit, but I got a piece of it."
Unfortunately, there were two people who were missing for the stands Saturday to watch the shutout occur.
Chilberg's dad had knee surgery to heal some recurring issues on the Tuesday before the game. This surgery forced his parents to stay at home and watch the game there.
"They watched," Chilberg said. "I had a lot of support back in New York."
He called his parents ad soon as he was able to after the game Saturday night. Both of Chilberg's parents told them that they were proud of him.
"I've been talking to my dad, and he's been alright," Chilberg said. "I knew they would be watching from home."
His dad will have another couple of months to recover from surgery. With this performance tonight, the chances are high that Chilberg's parents might be able to see him play a later series in the season.
Even though this is the first time that Chilberg had started this season, coach Cole Bell was not surprised by what he saw from his backup goaltender.
"He has been looking good in practice," Bell said. "I’m really not that surprised about his performance.”
This game is not the only time Jackson has put on an impressive performance in net for the Bobcats. In his first start last season against Eastern Michigan, he stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced in an 8-1 win.
Chilberg could see more time if he continues to play the way he has in the games against Slippery Rock and Eastern Michigan.
"Yeah, definitely possible," Bell said. "He did a lot to earn some trust there."