The PJHL Tod Division championship went the distance and then 4:08 further before the Napanee Raiders emerged victorious in a hard-fought seven-game battle with the Amherstview Jets.
Co-captain Noah Westwater intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, moved over the blue line and unleashed a shot from long range that fooled Jets goaltender Ethan Babin to secure a 4-3 win Sunday night. It was the defenceman’s team-leading seventh goal of the post-season that had his teammates streaming off the bench in celebration.
Bailey Maracle, the eventual winner of the Sgt. Jason Boyes Memoral Trophy as Tod Division playoff MVP, turned aside 36 shots in the game as he faced heavy pressure from the Jets late.
After Ben Chubbs opened the scoring for Napanee, the Jets got a pair of goals by their own leading defence man, Zac McMahon to lead after a period. The lead would flip after 40 minutes as the Raiders capitalized with two power-play goals in just over two minutes off the sticks of Aidan Johnson and Soren Zamuner. Caden Kekewich knotted the contest early in the third period.
It was the Raiders’ second chance to close out the series after taking wins on back-to-back nights in Games 4 and 5.
Game 4, April 12, saw the Raiders jump out to an early three-goal lead in the first as Ben White, Westwater, and Soren Zamuner found the twine behind Jets goaltender Jeremy Piazzi. The Jets would put themselves in reach with goals by Nicholas Deichmann and Jacob Harris in the second, but White found an empty net late to salt away the 4-2 win. Maracle stopped 38 shots that night.
The next evening, the Raiders again took an early three-goal lead and never looked back on their way to an 8-1 road win. Johnson, Chubbs, and Zamuner scored before Jets captain Mathieu Halle put his team on the board. The second half was tilted in the Raiders’ favour. Matt Sheehy restored the three-goal lead around the halfway mark and Reid Lambert, Zamuner, Isaac Brown, and Maverick Labrie all found the range in the third period. Zamuner’s goal came on the empty net and the latter two markers came against Carter Page, who came on in relief of Piazzi who suffered an injury late in the game.
On Friday with a chance to close out the series, the Raiders couldn’t get a lot of quality chances in front of surprise starter Babin, a call-up from the Greater Kingston AAA program. Sheehy scored first, but Kekewich and Raymond Benoit replied in a tight, cautious defensive battle. Babin turned aside 35 shots and Maracle 28.
Following the win, the Raiders got a bit of rest before the start of the PJHL East Conference final. They’ll start at 7:20 p.m. Thursday night in Clarington against an Eagles team that polished off the Little Britain Merchants in four games to win the Orr Division. Game 2 goes Friday night in Napanee at 7:30 p.m. The remaining games in the series are as follows: Game 3 – Clarington, April 24, 5:50 p.m., Game 4 – Napanee, April 26, 7:30 p.m., Game 5 – Clarington*, April 28, 7:20 p.m., Game 6 – Napanee*, May 1, 7:30 p.m. and Game 7 – Clarington*, 7:20 p.m. (If necessary).