Chubak is Red Hot for Purple Eagles
Niagara Junior Rises Again After Knee Surgery
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Writer
To say that Carsen Chubak is hot and in the zone would be an understatement. The Niagara junior goaltender has allowed just two goals in the last six games.
“He is so locked in, I haven’t seen (that) in a lot of years,” Purple Eagles coach Dave Burkholder said.
“In a lot of years I haven’t seen a guy that’s this calm, cool, and collected.”
Chubak shut out Clarkson on Oct. 26 and was supposed to have the next night off, but was needed in relief and allowed a goal midway through the third period. No one else would score on Chubak until there was 5:30 left in the third period of Niagara’s game against Army on Nov. 10.
“There was actually more disappointment than I thought there would be,” Chubak said about the goal that ended the streak. “Just my competitive nature just kicked in. I was pretty mad at the time actually.”
The three straight shutouts are the third-most in NCAA history, tied with Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller. The streak also set a new Niagara record for most consecutive shutout minutes at 258:32, breaking a record held by Greg Gardner, the man who recruited Chubak.
“It’s a big thing for me because Greg was such an inspiration to myself,” Chubak said.
It's taken Chubak a little longer than he would have liked to reach this point. A strong start to his freshman year lead to him being Burkholder’s top choice in net, but on Nov. 23, 2010 against Colgate, Chubak’s leg got pinned and twisted against the post. The result was a torn ACL.
“I went home for Christmas and had to spend a lot of time in bed, just laying around a lot. Just thinking about what you’re missing out on. It was a very difficult time,” Chubak said.
The 2011-12 season brought back a supposedly healthy Chubak, but Burkholder and the coaching weren’t convinced after an opening night 5-0 loss at Michigan.
“He was not 100 percent even though he battled through, said he was 100 percent,” Burkholder said. “But we could tell as a staff that he had some issues.”
And with Chris Noonan leading the nation in save percentage and goals against, and leading a second-half surge, there was no need for Chubak to try and rush back. That extra rest during the season plus a full summer of workouts had Burkholder on notice from the beginning of training camp.
“His training camp was unreal," Burkholder said. "From start to finish he was the best goalie in training camp. We would rank our three goalies everyday in practice ... and it was clear that he was the one who deserved the home opener against Bowling Green."
Opening night was the first time Chubak had been on the ice at Dwyer Arena in a game since he left the Colgate game with a torn ACL. He surrendered just two goals in the 2-2 tie. Chubak has appeared in nine of the Purple Eagles' 10 games since then, starting eight of them. But that wasn’t Burkholder’s plan to start the season.
Because of Chubak’s injury history, Burkholder wanted to give him a night off occasionally during the season. But on Oct. 27, Chubak was needed to come on in relief at Clarkson and won Burkholder over.
“We don’t play a lot of games and I think he’s strong enough, his body and mentally, that he can run with this,” Burkholder.
Even while playing, Chubak hadn’t completely trusted his knee. It took a while for that trust and comfort to come back.
“It took me about five games this year before I started to feel really comfortable in game situations again,” Chubak said.
It’s no surprise that at the same time, five games into the season, is when Chubak started this streak, a streak that shocked even himself.
“There were four straight starts there where I had a shutout going,” Chubak said. “I didn’t really know what was going on.
“The only way I can explain it is the hockey gods just giving me some luck and good bounces. I’m not complaining.”
And it has clearly cemented him as the team’s No. 1 goalie.
“His body language exudes confidence and he’s made a lot of big saves,” Burkholder said. “He’s won this team over, there’s no question, with his play.”
Even with the starting job and on a historical run, Chubak doesn’t take all the credit. He points to his teammates before talking about his play.
“Goals against average, it’s a team stat mostly,” Chubak said. “When I watch video it’s incredible. You don’t really notice it too much on the ice but in videos, they’re out there blocking shots everywhere. It’s difficult to see who’s doing what when you’re actually playing a game but when you watch it on video it’s been incredible. Everybody’s donating to the cause, that’s for sure.”
But when the defense misses a block or turns the puck over, Chubak is there to save it. He leads the nation with a .966 save percentage and a 1.09 goals against average. And Burkholder couldn’t be happier.
“I’m just happy for Carsen that, so far this season, he’s been the man,” he said.