The oilers dive into EBUG in the final minutes of the win

Emergency backup goaltender Matt Berlin stepped in for the final minutes of the Edmonton Oilers' 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday.  (Getty Images)

The emergency backup goaltender, affectionately known as the EBUG, is one of the rarest occurrences in hockey. Under league rules, each home team must have someone ready to play in goal for both teams if their regular goalkeepers are injured or unavailable.

When activated, EBUGs usually sign an amateur or professional trial contract. While donning an EBUG suit and sitting on the bench happens more regularly, only four have ever logged a time on the ice and accomplished something every young hockey player in the world dreams of.

First was Carolina Hurricanes equipment manager Jorge Alves dressing for the Canes in 2016-2017, followed by accountant Scott Foster making seven saves on seven shots for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017-2018. Most famously, David Ayres helped the Hurricanes beat his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 in the 2019-2020 season. Thomas Hodges also filled the Anaheim Ducks net for under a minute of play in April 2022, allowing one goal on three shots.

However, a fifth player joined these legendary ranks on Sunday night. With the Edmonton Oilers comfortably ahead 7-3 and 2:26 left, head coach Jay Woodcroft replaced Jack Campbell with EPUG and University of Alberta goaltender Matt Berlin, fulfilling his childhood dream and becoming the fifth emergency netminder to play minutes in an NHL game.

“I thought they were joking, actually,” Berlin said after the game. “With about five or six minutes left they say ‘you are entering with two minutes left’ […] and I said ‘OK, I guess we’re doing this.’”

Berlin told Sportsnet’s Scott Oake that the team contacted him in the morning saying they needed an EBUG for the game against Chicago. In the afternoon, when it was determined that Oilers backup Stuart Skinner would be unable to adjust, Berlin was told he would back up Jack Campbell.

“I was in scramble mode, I had to sign a contract and do all these things before I went,” Berlin said. “It was a bit of a whirlwind, but it was so exciting, I couldn’t believe it.”

Berlin made a one-point save on Blackhawks defender Caleb Jones that elicited explosive applause from the crowd.

Woodcroft told reporters after the match that it had been the players’ idea to give Berlin some time between the pipes.

“First of all, it came from the players,” he said. “We talked about it on the bench, we wanted to make sure we did it in a respectful way, but we just wanted to give someone an opportunity that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I was proud of our team that they came to that decision.”

Berlin has played five games this season for the number-five University of Alberta Golden Bears, posting a 2.57 goals against average and a . 892 save percentage, but no one can take away from him the perfect record in the NHL.

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