Mitch Gillam won his first career start for Cornell on Tuesday night against visiting Niagara, making 24 saves for the 14th-ranked Big Red in its 4-2 victory.
Unlike other freshmen—and most goalies—though, the Peterborough, Ont. also scored an actual, honest-to-gosh goal in his collegiate debut, sending the puck the length of the ice at Lynah Rink into an empty net with nine seconds remaining in regulation to ice Cornell’s seventh win of the season. It was also the first time in 80 games that someone other than Andy Illes started in net for the Big Red (7-3-1 overall).
You can watch Gillam’s historical goal-scoring goalie moment here.
“After I caught the puck, I noticed that most of their team was to one side of the ice,” said Gillam afterwards to the Ithaca Journal. “So I put it down and looked up, and (Joel) Lowry was telling me to get it out. I noticed their D-man was going toward the boards, so I just shot it right up the gut. Right into the net.”
Gillam is now tied with classmate Matt Buckles with one goal apiece, and with three other teammates who each have one assist. He is also ahead of five other teammates on Cornell’s scoring scroll.
According to USCHO.com, Gillam is the eighth goaltender to score a goal at the NCAA level, and just the third to shoot the puck into an empty net. The last one was sophomore Mike Mantua for Western Michigan in Nov. 2002 against visiting Ferris State in a 4-1 victory at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich,.
As for the first … I was there 15 years ago at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Mich. in Feb. 1998 when old friend Chad Alban, then a senior for Michigan State, made history by hitting the empty net for the Spartans in their 6-3 CCHA win against those same FSU Bulldogs—and on MSU’s Senior Night, to boot.
You surely don’t see that every day—or even every season.