Matt Server wasn’t nervous. It was just another game for him.
Playing against Liberty on Tuesday night in Bird Arena, Server was announced as the starting goaltender for the first time in his career as a Bobcat. He looked completely calm from the moment his name was called until the final second ticked down in the third period despite having a big role all night as a freshman.
“You can’t really think about that too much,” Server said. “You’ve got a job to do. It’s nice, but you have to start thinking about the game and thinking about what your job is and what you have to do for the team.”
The Bobcats lost to the Flames 2-0, but Ohio coach Cole Bell got everything he needed from Server.
Max Karlenzig started at goaltender for Ohio’s first three games against Lindenwood and Liberty. While he’s played well, saving 89% of shots hit toward him, Bell thought Server had also earned a chance to start. Server’s starting role hadn’t come as a surprise to him. He had been consistent throughout practice all the previous week, and Bell knew he could put his trust in him with the starting job.
“Server’s looked good in practice,” Bell said. “We’ve got four games in five days. It’s a good time to give him an opportunity here.”
Knowing for almost a week before and feeling prepared for his first start, Server approached it like it was any other game. He wants to have fun when he plays, and he wasn’t going to let his nerves ruin his big moment.
Server did his job well while he enjoyed the moment. Liberty shot at him 22 times, and 21 of them were saved. That’s not bad for a first-time starter.
“He let in one goal,” Bell said. “You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Server also feels satisfied with his performance, but he was still self-critical after the game. He felt that he could brush up on some of his stickhandling, fighting through traffic and work on his footwork. Those mistakes were hard to notice with only one shot getting past him. The second Liberty goal came after Ohio went empty net with less than a minute remaining.
The only goal he allowed was scored in the second period when Liberty’s Quinn Ryan hit the puck perfectly into the left corner of the net. Server didn’t let that moment get to him and protected the goal from every remaining shot that came his way.
Being scored on never is never a good feeling, but Server understands he can’t feel down about it.
“I think it’s natural no matter how good of a shot or how bad of a goal it is, you always think about it,” Server said, “Especially if it’s the only one. Stuff like that happens. That’s hockey.”
Server was just one part of Ohio’s best defensive performance in four games. The Bobcats only allowed 30 shots from the Flames, the lowest from any one of Ohio’s opponents in its first four games. Server looked good, but he was also happy with the rest of the defense for how they played.
“(The defense) played great today,” Server said. “(Liberty) still got some chances here and there, but I think overall, we played very well defensively. It’s good to see.”
Despite their 0-4 record, the Bobcats can rest easy over their goaltender position. Karlenzig is already a stalwart goaltender, and Server has proved he is also capable of defending opposing shots and supporting the defense for 60 minutes.