Jackson Chilberg skated out of the crease toward center ice as his teammates poured off the bench and mobbed him as the buzzer sounded.
The goalie had just completed his first start of the season for Ohio. Thanks to the Bobcats, Chilberg ended his first start with 22 saves and a 5-0 win over Slippery Rock to garner his first career shutout.
The icing on the cake? It all happened on his 20th birthday.
“It’s unreal,” Chilberg said with a big smile.
The junior didn’t know that he was going to start Saturday until immediately after Friday’s game when he heard the message from coach Cole Bell.
Chilberg said his nerves were high in the first period, but he never wavered in confidence. After his first save, he was in the zone.
When asked if Chilberg would see more game time as the season goes forward, coach Cole Bell said it was “definitely possible.” The coaching staff has wanted to start Chilberg and give him more experience in case typical starter Jimmy Thomas was unable to play.
The Bobcats also used the series against the Pride as practice on keeping their tempers down. The results have been largely successful, with the Bobcats serving 12 minutes in the penalty box, compared to their average 16.9 minutes.
“We’ve shot ourselves in the foot doing that in the past,” Bell said. “This wasn’t that intense of a series, so it was pretty easy this series to stay disciplined.”
In a series where the first game ends as one-sided as Ohio’s Friday against the Pride did, teams need to be careful not to be complacent when leading off the next day to prevent a slow start. Bell is always telling his players about carrying the energy into the next game.
The energy did not carry over to the first period on Saturday. The Bobcats were slow out of the gate and didn’t score until Tyler Harkins gave Ohio a 1-0 lead with four minutes left in the first period.
After a quick talk with Bell during the break, the Bobcats found the groove they had Friday. Andrew Sacca, Ryan Higgins and Jake Houston found the net in the second period and built on their strong performances from the first game of the series when all three scored against the Pride.
The star of the night, however, was clearly Chilberg. It might not mean much in the scope of the rest of the season — Thomas is entrenched as Ohio’s top starter — but it was certainly a night to remember.
“I don’t know if we played up to our potential,” Bell said. “But we’re happy with the win and happy with Chili for the shutout.”