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Normally, a team would be apprehensive turning goaltending duties over to a freshman heading into a national championship weekend. However, for Middlebury, who had to turn to Doug Raeder due to an injury to Ross Cherry, that was never a concern.

That’s because when you are the son of a former NHL goaltender, Cap Raeder, more than likely you will have excellent mechanics, nerves of steel, and a willingness to always be prepared. That was the case with Doug Raeder, who led Middlebury to the 2006 National Championship, shutting out St. Norbert, 3-0. Raeder let in just one goal in six periods of hockey in Elmira.

Raeder didn’t exactly get encouragement from his father early on.

Middlebury goaltender Doug Raeder is the third different goalie -- and second rookie in a row -- to win a championship for the Panthers in the past three seasons. (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo)

Middlebury goaltender Doug Raeder is the third different goalie — and second rookie in a row — to win a championship for the Panthers in the past three seasons. (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo)

“He didn’t want me to be a goalie at all,” Raeder said. “He would never buy me pads. Until he felt bad when we moved from L.A. to Boston because I was crying because I was going to lose my friends, so he said fine I’ll buy you a pair of goalie pads. By that time I was in the fourth grade. I just always wanted to do it.”

The first two saves against St. Norbert are a prime example of Raeder’s training. Both times, the Green Knights’ forwards raced down the side on a partial breakaway. Both times, Raeder prepared for the shot by coming out to cut down the angle, squaring off to the shooter, and standing up waiting for the attacker to take his best shot.

Both times, the shooters had nothing to shoot at except the large “M” on Raeder’s chest. Both shots went into the gut of Raeder who simply held onto the puck for a faceoff.

Rebounds are also an occurrence you rarely see from a goalie with good mechanics. In the first period alone, out of eleven St. Norbert shots, there was only one Raeder could not smother with ease. That was also the one time he was forced to adapt to a shot and go down into a butterfly, kicking his right leg out to make the save, sending the rebound harmlessly into the corner.

“He wasn’t sure if he was going to be playing or not,” Middlebury coach Bill Beaney said. “With Ross [Cherry] playing so well down the stretch he could have easily put it in cruise control. Instead it just shows the great character that Doug has that he stepped it up in practice and said that I’m going to be ready if I’m needed. He was supportive of Ross, but he worked extra hard and came out for extra practice because he wasn’t getting the game opportunities.”

Of course, any goalie will tell you how good he looks is directly proportional to how well his defense plays. The Middlebury defense plays as disciplined and by the book as Raeder does in his position. They kept the St. Norbert attackers off to the sides, cleared away the front, got down to block shots without any fear, poked the puck away with seemingly endless reaches, and when all that failed, made sure that Raeder could see the shot clearly.

“Their whole game is predicated on the speed factor,” St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin said. “They recover so fast. Even when there is a trailer and it looks like you have an odd man opportunity heading up ice, they recover quickly. They swarm the puck on the backcheck.

“If you look at the opportunities that we had in front, we weren’t getting second and third looks. For whatever reason, they were getting sticks on pucks, shin pads on pucks, skates on pucks; they were in the right lanes.”

Raeder knew he would be tested in the third period as St. Norbert threw everything they had at him trying to save its championship hopes.

“Of course Middlebury is playing with a two goal lead and that’s an insurmountable lead against a team that plays that strong defensively,” Coghlin said.

Raeder was equal to the task. His hardest save of the game was appropriately his last one. A St. Norbert shot was deflected upwards right in front of the goal. Raeder got his right shoulder in the way of it keeping it out of the net.

Middlebury has always been blessed with great goaltenders, but one has to wonder what would have happened this year if a certain goaltender father never caved into his son’s begging for a pair of goalie pads.