University of Alberta goalie Matt Berlin recounts ‘pure bliss’ of surprise NHL debut over weekend

Click to play video: 'University of Alberta goalie Matt Berlin steps in as Edmonton Oilers emergency backup goalie'
University of Alberta goalie Matt Berlin steps in as Edmonton Oilers emergency backup goalie
The Edmonton Oilers needed an emergency backup netminder after Stuart Skinner fell ill, so the University of Alberta's Matt Berlin was called up to the big leagues. John Sexsmith reports. – Jan 30, 2023

A science student at the University of Alberta who also serves as the university hockey team’s goaltender says he was supposed to be studying when he ended up moonlighting as Edmonton Oiler over the weekend — but the surreal experience also had an educational component.

“I learned a lot about what it takes to be up there (in the NHL)… especially on game-day,” Matt Berlin told Global News on Monday. “The preparation and focus that goes into every game.”

Although Jack Campbell got the start in net for the Oilers when they hosted the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night, the NHL team still needed an emergency backup netminder after Stuart Skinner fell ill and was unable to dress for the game.

The 25-year-old got the call and said the team made the memorable experience one that was also easy to navigate.

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“It felt like I was on the team when I walked in there,” he said. “Campbell came up and gave me a big hug.”

Berlin said Oilers captain Connor McDavid was the second player to say hello, noting the superstar centre was “super friendly.”

“All the staff, right from the top down, was unbelievable to me,” he said.

Edmonton Oilers emergency backup goalie Matt Berlin warms up prior to the game against the Chicago Black Hawks at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alta on January 28, 2023. Lawrence Scott/Getty Images

While the use of emergency backup goaltenders is fairly rare in the NHL, Berlin was called on to do something that occurs even less frequently: actually play in the game.

Click to play video: 'Zamboni driver David Ayres fills in as emergency goalie, helps Hurricanes win over Leafs'
Zamboni driver David Ayres fills in as emergency goalie, helps Hurricanes win over Leafs

With a significant lead over the Blackhawks, Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft put Berlin in the game with 2:26 left in the third period.

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The goaltender, who is used to stopping puck for the Golden Bears, made a save on the only shot from Chicago that he faced and the Oilers won 7-3.

“It was pretty special,” Berlin said. “At first, it was pretty nerve-wracking on the bench when they told me (I would play) because I had about five minutes just to sit there.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers light up Blackhawks 7-3 Saturday

Berlin said once he got onto the ice, he realized he was “just playing the game I love — just on a bit of a bigger stage.”

“I was just so excited,” he recalled. “The nerves were completely gone.”

Woodcroft said the team wanted to give Berlin the chance to live out an experience he would never forget.

“For that to come from our players — I think it’s special and I think it brings the team together,” he said.

Emergency Edmonton Oilers goalie Matt Berlin is thrown into the game with under four minutes left in the third period of the game versus the Chicago Blackhawks on January 28, 2023 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alta. Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Berlin said he hung out with Oilers players after the game and while he was supposed to be at home studying that night, “it was definitely worth it.”

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He added he hopes the attention he has received for his time on the ice at Rogers Place will generate some publicity for the U of A hockey program.

“Canadian university hockey sometimes gets a bad rap for not being that good, but we’ve got a good program over here and the league has gotten way better,” he said.

READ MORE: Hockey Can’t Stop Tour comes to Alberta, Ukrainian team takes on Dinos and Bears

When asked how he’ll regale friends and family with his Oilers story years down the road, Berlin joked he will have to be careful about not exaggerating how his moments in an NHL net unfolded.

“There’s a lot of video evidence of what happened, so I’ll try to keep it (the story accurate),” he joked.

University of Alberta goaltender Matt Berlin speaks to Global News on Jan. 30, 2023 about making an appearance for the Edmonton Oilers. Global News

— With files from Reid Wilkins, 630 CHED


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