‘Incredible run’ comes to an end for Chubak, Niagara

Carsen Chubak is no stranger to hard work between the pipes. The Niagara junior goaltender and Hobey Baker Award finalist gets a workout in many games, as the Purple Eagles routinely give up more than 30 shots per game.

Chubak has faced more than 40 shots in five games this season, and in two of those — Oct. 26 against Clarkson and Nov. 17 against Robert Morris — Chubak earned shutout wins.

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The three other 40-plus shot games were losses, including Friday night’s 2-1 decision against North Dakota in the NCAA tournament West Regional semifinals.

“He’s a heck of a goaltender, that’s for sure,” said North Dakota senior defenseman Andrew MacWilliam, who scored the first North Dakota goal. “It’s no surprise that he’s up for the Hobey. He played well. He stood on his head for the first little bit and then all through the game. We got a little frustrated maybe, but we stuck with it. Kudos to him. He’s kind of dragged them a long way this season and played well again tonight.”

While it may be unfair to characterize Chubak as having dragged the Purple Eagles through the season to the NCAA tournament, there’s no question that he was instrumental in Niagara’s success.

Coach Dave Burkholder was counting on Chubak to help the Purple Eagles start strong against North Dakota, and Burkholder said that Chubak didn’t disappoint.

“Carsen’s had a terrific year,” Burkholder said. “We knew he’d have to be one of the game stars — he should be the first star — to keep us in it.”

And keep the Eagles in the game he did. North Dakota outshot Niagara 43-29 in the game and 11-6 in the first period alone, yet NU held UND scoreless through the first 41:58 of the game and the Purple Eagles led by a goal going into the third.

Chubak was screened on senior MacWilliam’s game-tying goal and beaten by one of the best in college hockey, fellow Hobey finalist Danny Kristo, for the game-winner.

None of that stopped Chubak for nearly taking the full personal responsibility for Niagara’s loss. Chubak called Kristo’s goal “a tough one.”

“I just couldn’t get back to the far post in time,” Chubak said. “It would be one — well, both goals would be one that I would like not to give up.”

On MacWilliam’s goal, Chubak said: “It was a high shot from the point that just handcuffed me. Unfortunately, it bounced behind me.”

When asked if the puck had deflected off another player, Chubak said: “I think it was my fault. It was definitely one I should have had back, like I said.”

After hearing Chubak’s take on the MacWilliam’s goal, Burkholder did a little redirection himself, gently coming to the defense of the goaltender.

“I had a good look from the bench,” Burkholder said. “There was a lot of traffic. There were a couple of guys skating through his line of vision when it was making its way there. It was a tough one.”

A tough one and perhaps a lesser fate than the Purple Eagles and Chubak deserved. Chubak — who played part of just one game for Niagara last season and nine total in his freshman year — was appreciative of what the Purple Eagles accomplished this year.

“We had an incredible run,” Chubak said. “The first three-quarters of the season was one of the best in Niagara’s history, and I’m very proud of that.”