Middlebury Mystique

Middlebury’s win over St. Norbert marked its third consecutive shutout victory in a national championship game (and fourth shoutout overall), and the eighth for the Panthers in 12 seasons. Middlebury has lost quarterfinal and semifinal games, but has never lost the title game. Perhaps they could have had even more had the NESCAC allowed its teams to participate in the postseason prior to 1995.

Middlebury's John Sales says that the Panthers' success comes from setting the bar high. (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo)

Middlebury’s John Sales says that the Panthers’ success comes from setting the bar high. (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo)

That record of success almost has given a sort of inevitability to a Middlebury championship.

St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin suggested that the tradition of winning has taken on almost a mythical quality. “I think there is a certain level of confidence in that locker room that’s hard to understand,” said Coghlin. “I really think they’ve created this monster that somebody’s going to have to try to knock down sooner or later.”

Freshman goalie Doug Raeder, who is the third netminder in three years for Middlebury in the championship game, said that it’s much simpler and less metaphysical than that.

“I don’t know about the ‘Middlebury mystique,’ but with this particular team I’ve never had a group of guys that believed in each other so much or wanted to play so hard for each other,” said Raeder. “All it takes is one guy believing in you to believe in yourself. This time, we’ve each had 26 guys believing in us.”

“Actually, I think the biggest thing about putting on the Middlebury jersey, and playing for Middlebury, and playing for Coach [Bill] Beaney is that we set the bar pretty high,” said Junior forward John Sales, who agreed that there’s nothing mystical about the achievements of Middlebury in the NCAAs. “You can’t just go through the motions out here. And I think that’s what ultimately leads to our success.”

Beaney noted that while there is a track record of success, that’s only the starting point. “You approach each year with a basic set of values. And you build on that.”