Jimmy Thomas skated across center ice. absorbing everything around him. His teammates fist-bumped him as he made his way to the red carpet where his parents, Jim and Jeanie, stood beaming with pride.
The sold-out crowd in Bird Arena cheered for the goalie who had given four seasons of spectacular goaltending. A bright green poster board was held high in the stands that read “In Jimmy We Trust.”
For Thomas, Ohio’s senior goalie, it was a near-perfect ending to his final season at Bird Arena. The Bobcats blasted the Golden Flashes 8-0 in his final game.
Thomas made all 20 saves look easy. The Flashes never seemed confident in their shots on goal, and Thomas’ 20 saves combined with eight goals from an overbearing Ohio offense created a night to remember for the senior class.
“That was the icing on the cake for me,” Thomas said with a smile on his face. “I have all these family members here and a sold-out crowd. It’s just incredible.”
His 17th career shutout Saturday only added to his record-breaking season. Thomas broke the career shutout record for Ohio (24-8-4) in October against Robert Morris-Illinois. From then on, Thomas didn’t have the record looming over him.
“It’s a pretty special place to be playing around here,” coach Cole Bell said about Thomas and his fellow seniors’ performance. “I’m sure this night specifically is something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
Thomas was honored with his fellow seniors Tyler Harkins, Jake Houston and Gianni Evangelisti in a pregame ceremony. After the ceremony ended, Thomas shook off any emotions and set all his focus on the game. He was still there to play hockey.
Thomas has been the starting goalie for Ohio since his freshman season. He wanted to close his four seasons at Bird Arena with a memento.
“It’s obviously an emotional night,” Thomas said. “You’ve got a lot of family here, and that really means a lot that they can come to this. But you still have to go out there and perform during the game.”
Thomas had invited many of his family members and friends to Athens to see him in his final game at Bird Arena.
Among them was Tom Stejcek, the man responsible for introducing Thomas to hockey.
Stejcek is Thomas’ godfather and the only one of Thomas’ family members who ever played hockey. When Thomas was 5 years old, Stejcek gave him a stick, and they’d spend days in Stejcek’s basement shooting pucks at cans.
The pair also watched hockey together. Stejcek is a season ticket holder for the Columbus Blue Jackets and often brought Thomas along to watch with him.
Thomas will always remember his career at Ohio and the record he set while there.
“I want to be remembered as a good, fun person and obviously a good goaltender,” Thomas said. “To go out like that is pretty fun.”