Perfect For 59 Minutes
North Dakota Solves Chubak Just in Time
by Matt Slovin/CHN Reporter
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. According to North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, the word of the day Friday for his team was resiliency.
That’s exactly what it took to figure out Carsen Chubak.
A stellar start to the national postseason came unraveled in the first three minutes of the third period for Chubak and, with it, went Niagara’s season.
The Purple Eagles’ junior goalie had held off a highly talented North Dakota attack for the game’s opening 43 minutes, but two quick goals buried Niagara; North Dakota hung on for a 2-1 win.
“He’s a heck of a goaltender, that’s for sure,” said North Dakota senior defenseman Andrew MacWilliam of Chubak, who gave his team fits all game. “It’s no surprise that he’s up for the Hobey (Baker award)."
In the first two periods, it seemed that nothing North Dakota threw on net had even a slightest chance of going in. MacWilliam said that his team became frustrated when solid scoring chances proved futile, but he pointed to the same mantra of resiliency to explain the shift in the opening minutes of the third.
Niagara has become accustomed to its steady goalie. Entering the NCAA tournament, Chubak had posted a 1.91 goals-against average and a save percentage of .938. Friday, he made 41 saves in the losing effort.
But none of that mattered to the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, native when he gave up the two goals in rapid succession after his team led 1-0 after 40 minutes.
First, MacWilliam fired a shot from the left point that beat Chubak. After the game, Chubak placed all of the blame on his shoulders for the equalizer that he said “handcuffed” him, but his coach was quick to disagree.
“I had a good look from the bench,” said Purple Eagles coach Dave Burkholder. “There was a lot of traffic. A couple guys skated right through the crease.”
On the next goal, Chubak, who typically boasts a quick post-to-post speed, didn’t recover in time. Danny Kristo, a fellow Hobey Baker Award finalist, beat him on a wraparound.
“It was a tough one,” Chubak said. “I just couldn’t get back to the far post in time.”
Burkholder said that, going into the game, he knew Chubak would have to be the best player on the ice in order for the Purple Eagles to have a chance against the more talented North Dakota lineup. Burkholder admitted that Chubak kept Niagara in it, and despite the two goals in a span of 57 seconds, Chubak stood tall until the bitter end, when he was pulled with 1:42 left in regulation.
For Chubak, the odds were stacked against him to even reach this stage and receive the accolades he’s garnered. During his freshman campaign, he underwent reconstructive knee surgery, and sophomore year, it was his hip that caused him problems.
Chubak, who leads the NCAA with six shutouts on the season, keeping his team in games it didn’t belong in along the way, will have one more season as a Purple Eagle. As he enters it, he’ll try not to consider what could have been had six shutouts turned to seven on an evening where he was perfect for 59 minutes.