Oilers use emergency backup goalie to close out win against Blackhawks
“The whole day was a whirlwind, but the finish to the day was unbelievable,” Berlin said. “Something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”
The 25-year-old, who is in his third season with the University of Alberta, signed an amateur tryout contract on an emergency basis earlier in the day after Stuart Skinner came down with an illness.
Berlin has been an emergency backup for the Oilers for each of the past two seasons and has also occasionally practiced with the team.
“I did the EBUG last year, and then Shawn [May, Oilers communication] texted me and I thought I was going to be sitting in the stands like last year during the playoffs, and he texted me again about 4:30 p.m. saying that there was a change of plans and I was backing up tonight.
“I was sitting there doing homework and my heart rate spiked, and it was a whirlwind of a day getting ready to get down here, but it was unbelievable. Everyone was so welcoming down here, the players, staff, everybody. It was unbelievable. I was studying for a psychology midterm on Monday.”
Berlin entered the game to an ovation with 2:26 remaining in the third period and made a blocker save on the only shot he faced, coming from Caleb Jones from the left point with 48 seconds left, drawing a loud roar from the crowd.
“I thought they were joking, but [Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft] said at the three-minute mark to be ready to go and that at the first whistle after the three-minute mark I was going in,” Berlin said. “So I went into the back, did a couple of stretches, took a couple of breaths and I was in.
“My heart was pounding for the four minutes once he told me, and then once I got in there and got a drink of water I was all right.”
Oilers captain Connor McDavid was the one who suggested to Woodcroft that they put Berlin into the game.
“First of all, it came from the players,” Woodcroft said. “We wanted to make sure we did it in a respectful way, because we have nothing but respect for the Chicago Blackhawks, their players and their coaching staff. But we just wanted to give someone an opportunity they’ll remember for the rest of their life.”
Berlin replaced Jack Campbell, who made 25 saves on 28 shots.
“I was proud of our team that they came to that decision,” Woodcroft said. “Jack Campbell came to our bench at TV timeout, we told him what we were thinking, and he was all on board. He was so happy for him, and the opportunity presented itself. That’s what we did, and good on the young man for going out there and making a save, and I’m sure he will carry that memory with him for the rest of his life.”
In five games with Alberta this season, Berlin is 4-0-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .892 save percentage.
Prior to Alberta, Berlin played for Spokane, Seattle and Kootenay in the Western Hockey League, and Drayton Valley and Sherwood Park in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“We meant no disrespect to Chicago, we were just trying to give a cool moment to someone that was here and lived out a moment to play in the NHL,” McDavid said. “He’s still young and playing for a good program in [Alberta], and maybe we’ll see him in the League one day.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Derek Van Diest contributed to this report