The last line of defence can be a lonely place.
There is no place to hide when you struggle, the solitude of the crease is the only escape.
The highs and lows for a young developing goaltender can be crippling.
The search for consistency, maximal performance and unwavering self-confidence fuels the process.
The process to become an elite level netminder takes time, persistence and patience.
Beaconsfield, Quebec’s own Michael D’Orazio has trusted that process ever since he donned the pads.
“I started playing hockey at 4 years old as a forward,” said a reflective D’Orazio.
“I still recall when putting on the equipment for the first time and playing 3 on 3 at the local rink.”
A lot has changed since D’Orazio’s first foray between the pipes, but the passion and love for the game has never wavered.
D’Orazio knew hockey was something he wanted to do for the rest of your life after watching a Canadian tradition live in Montreal.
“My family and I went to watch a couple of World Junior games.”
“I went to watch Team Canada and Carter Hart was in the net.”
“I was very impressed with the equipment he was wearing and the big saves he was making,” admitted D’Orazio.
“From watching these games, I decided that this was something I wanted to work towards.”
Every young hockey crazed Canadian wants to don the Maple Leaf, but in that moment the kid from Beaconsfield was inspired to dream big.
Hockey dreams don’t come true without sacrifice and D’Orazio and his family were prepared to do whatever it took to make those dreams come true.
D’Orazio made a very difficult decision to leave home and the country at fourteen years of age.
That decision may have been difficult on a personal level, but certainly not from a hockey perspective.
D’Orazio was heading into the epicentre of elite level hockey development with an unprecedented reputation for developing some the world’s best players.
D’Orazio would attend famed Shattuck St Mary’s Prep School in Minnesota.
“I chose to go to Shattuck because I thought it would help my development and allow me focus on both school and hockey,” stressed the highly touted netminder.
“Shattuck has a long history of being a great hockey school and has had some legendary players attend.”
Shattuck St Mary’s prep school’s culture and tradition is truly unparalleled.
“Shattuck is a great experience for a young hockey player,” D’Orazio said.
“You get a lot of support from the hockey community and school community.”
“Shattuck promotes a culture that helps young hockey players develop and grow their hockey skills while getting an excellent education.”
The pressure to perform under the bright lights of a monumental hockey program never phased the young netminder.
If anything it strengthen D’Orazio’s resolve, self-confidence and poise in the crease.
The process to become an elite level goaltender became fast tracked.
Nevertheless, the young highly skilled netminder is quick to point out the impact and sacrifice of others that have got him to this point in his career.
“When I was in Montreal my mentor was Marco Raimondo,” D’Orazio said proudly.
“Marco taught me a lot about the position and the skills.”
My goalie coach at Shattuck, Des Christopher was a very important part of my development during my time there.”
D’Orazio also credits Shattuck St Mary’s Head Coach Jeff Pellegrini for being a pillar of support.
“Jeff provided a lot of guidance and his confidence in me helped me become a better goalie.”
One would only imagine what it would be like to play at one of the best prep schools in the world, but what about during your draft year?
“Going into my draft year I was nervous,” admitted D’Orazio.
“I was confident that my hard work during the summer would pay off if I stuck to my goals.”
“Going into the QMJHL draft day I was nervous on where I would land, but I was also enjoying the special moment with my family. I was very thrilled to be selected by Saint John Sea Dogs,” D’Orazio said.
The Sea Dogs selected D’Orazio in the 3rd round, 42nd overall.
D’Orazio’s dream to play in the QMJHL and at the highest is now in reach.
The work never ends, the process is on going and Michael D’Orazio loves every second of it on and off the ice.
“I worked on being consistent throughout my games and practices this year,” he said.
“I worked on my rebound control, playing the puck and speed.”
The work didn’t end there.
“This year in the gym with my trainer at Shattuck I worked on maintaining the muscle I built throughout the summer last year with my trainer in Montreal, Yves Ethier.”
Carter Hart’s game caught his eye and inspired him during the World Juniors, but who did the young up and coming netminder look up to growing up in Montreal.
“I had the opportunity to watch Carey Price a lot and as a young goalie and I modelled my style after him, but now I model my game style after Andrei Vasilevskiy as we are both tall and quick goaltenders,” explained the Sea Dogs prospect.
Where does the talent backstop see himself fitting in at the next level?
“I view myself as a starting goaltender playing the important games and working towards a championship with my teammates,” D’Orazio said confidently.
It may not happen this year, but there’s no question D’Orazio is the Sea Dogs goalie of the future.
“It’s a great honour to be selected by the Sea Dogs. It’s every young hockey player’s dream to be drafted in a Major Junior league and Saint John is definitely a great organization.”
As far as all the sacrifices he and his family have made over the years, they wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Definitely leaving home at a young age was a difficult choice for my family and I, but looking back at it it was a good decision. My parents have definitely supported me which allowed me to pursue my hockey goals.”
Through it all D’Orazio does have one regret about his draft year which undoubtedly showcases his maturity, passion and team first mentality.
“It was a great season this year, there’s not much I would have changed.”
“I wish my teammates and I could have had the opportunity to go to Nationals and win the championship, but unfortunately Nationals had to be cancelled this year.”
“We had a great coaching staff, head coach Jeff Pellegrini and assistant coach Mike Carpentier.”
“I had great teammates and I wish we could have shared the experience of winning a championship together.”
With all the uncertainty right now due to the horrific COVID-19 pandemic, D’Orazio and his family are weighing all of his options for the upcoming season if he wasn’t to make the Dogs out of camp.
“My first choice would be to return back to Shattuck, but with all the uncertainties right now in the world, I have looked at options in Canada,” he said.