If a pro hockey team features three goaltenders in a single game, chances are it's the exhibition season or you're watching All-Star Weekend or there's been some level of injury catastrophe that's forced your fourth line plug that played between the pipes back in youth hockey to don the pads.
The Nottingham Panthers of the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League faced that last bit of adversity against the Edinburgh Capitals this week. But they were prepared for it, and may have made some hockey history in the process.
According to the Nottingham Post, the team's starting goalie Craig Kowalski — a former AHLer, drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2000 — was scheduled to play one period before returning home to be with his wife for "personal reasons." So the team had back-up netminder Dan Green ready to play the final 40 minutes, with an 18-year-old named Sam Gospel in the wings as an emergency backup.
With five minutes left in the game, there was an emergency: Green had to leave due to injury. So in a time of despair, Nottingham did what so many of us would do: They turned to the Gospel.
The young goalie closed out the game, and Nottingham achieved the rarest of hockey feats: Three goaltenders, combining to pitch a 34-save shutout in a 10-0 win over Edinburgh.
"We thought it might be a record," said coach Corey Neilson on Panthers TV after the game. "I don't know if that's ever been done."
Now it has been … but how was it legal?
IIHF rules state that teams can carry a maximum of two goaltenders on their roster for a game. The Panthers had three.
How did Nottingham get around that regulation? From the Nottingham Post:
Great Britain's IIHF referees' assessor and the league's former chief official Simon Kirkham was at the game and confirmed the move as legitimate.
He said: "The IIHF procedure was followed to the letter and we have no problems whatsoever with what Panthers did. You can in fact warm-up with three netminders, but only two are allowed to be suited up on the bench.
"The fact they had young Gospel on the team-sheet as an outskater was a smart move by them to cover all possibilities. But anyone on the bench, even their best player, could have dressed up when Kowalski had to leave the game.
"But had the first back-up not been injured, then and only then it would have been illegal to use a third goaltender."
And that's how you get a three-goalie shutout, and a potential professional hockey record. Although the trio reportedly still failed to break the "total combined weight in a shutout" mark established by Martin Brodeur …