Match made in heaven
Perfection is rarely seen in the sports world, but St. Cloud State University senior defenseman Garrett Raboin has found it.
Raboin and the SCSU men's hockey team ended up being a perfect match, as both ends prospered throughout the Detroit Lakes graduate's four years playing for the Huskies.
SCSU is in the midst of another successful WCHA season during Raboin's reign, where the Huskies finished third with a conference record of 15-9-4 and overall mark of 20-11-5.
Ever since Husky head coach Bob Motzko recruited Raboin out of the USHL (Lincoln Stars), the match couldn't have been any better.
"We didn't have a clue he was going to turn out the way he did," Motzko said. "But we knew very quickly in the first couple of weeks of practice that we had something here."
Raboin made his impression early and often as a physical defenseman, who didn't take it easy during any shift, during any game or any practice.
The former Laker had a couple of other offers to play D-I college hockey, but he chose SCSU.
And he is certainly glad he did.
"The key to my career is that this was the right place for me," Raboin said. "From my teammates to my coaching staff to my teachers, this was the place where I exactly needed to be."
Raboin's career progressed nicely, both offensively and defensively.
His first season, he notched just seven points, all coming on assists.
But Raboin's numbers didn't deter his teammates and coaches from seeing what kind of leader he was on and off the ice.
Raboin was voted unanimously as the alternate captain his sophomore season -- a very rare honor bestowed on a second-year player.
"He's become the big leader on this team and you could already see that his sophomore season," said senior forward Ryan Lasch, who started at SCSU the same year Raboin did and is also up for the Hobey Baker Award.
"It's rare (for a sophomore to be named captain), but Garrett is a rare young man," Motzko said.
Raboin's offensive production started to improve, as he saw some duty on the power play line, and he recorded three goals and 16 assists -- including a goal in the Huskies' NCAA tournament game against Clarkston.
As his confidence rose, so did his ability to put the puck in the net. His defensive presence on the ice was already known throughout the WCHA.
Raboin was voted as a full-fledged captain his junior season, while his power play responsibilities increased -- as did his goal production.
He scored 33 points, including 10 goals and 23 assists. He was named to the All-WCHA Second team and earned his second-consecutive WCHA Scholar-Athlete and All-WCHA Academic awards.
And Raboin also became a fan favorite of the Husky faithful.
"I've played a lot of games the last four years (149) and I've been in front of the fans a lot," Raboin said of his popularity. "But any chance I can get to talk with the fans, I take it. I just want to go out, play hard and to the best of my abilities in front of them."
The Huskies started Raboin's senior season pretty well, splitting the majority of series before heading into their holiday break.
But a sweep of then-nationally ranked Brown University on Jan. 2-3 put things in motion which would catapult the Huskies to the top of the WCHA and all the way up to the No. 4 standing in the national poll.
A pair of sweeps against Michigan Tech and Quinipiac University preceded SCSU's big series against WCHA rival University of Minnesota.
The Huskies went an inglorious 0-6 against the Gophers last year, and SCSU was able to gain a little payback with a sweep by scores of 4-3 and 4-1.
Raboin scored the Huskies' first goal of the opening game and added an assist in game two.
"We felt like we made their season last year and we broke ours after going 0-6 against them," Raboin said of the Gophers. "It's always fun to score against the Gophers, too."
Raboin's offensive numbers his senior year ended at five goals and 14 assists, with all of his goals coming in the second half resurgence by SCSU.
But the humble Raboin is quick to credit his forwards for his offensive output.
"I am just fortunate enough to have fast and outstanding forwards on the power play," Raboin said. "I benefit from them, since I am basically an afterthought of the defense, because our forwards attract so much attention.
"I'm the least expected player to score a goal."
But Lasch also appreciates having Raboin as another scoring option on the power play.
"He's turned into both an offensive and defensive player," Lasch added. "He uses his one-time shot well."
After a spectacular career in the toughest conferences in D-I hockey, Raboin has been recognized nationally, especially after being named WCHA Player of the Week twice this year.
He is a finalist for the LOWE's Award, which honors hockey's senior players, and he has earned numerous academic awards off the ice.
"Academics are right on par with hockey for me," said Raboin, who will earn his degree in special education. "From having a great advisor to the coaching staff, I've been able to fulfill my bargain here."
The Huskies will host Minnesota State University Mankato Friday and Saturday (and Sunday if necessary) for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Raboin will be a major key in a potential Huskies' run through the playoffs as well.
His performance on the ice is as great as his off-the-ice leadership.
"He is one of the all-time greatest leaders and competitors I've ever been around," Motzko said. "Garrett has left every part of his heart with this program and we are so fortunate to have had him here the last four years."
For Raboin, the feeling is more than mutual.