Raiders defeat Pirates in six games to advance

Big moment - Connor Brooks celebrates his power play goal late in Game 4 that lifted the Raiders to a 5-3 win. With Brooks (11), from left, are Erik MacNiel, Blake Aylesworth, Ben White, and Logan Vale.

PICTON – In a series where the Napanee Raiders relied on four comeback wins to advance, they saved their most dramatic effort for last.

Pushing on – Erik MacNiel attempts a clearing pass while losing his footing in Game 1.

A dogged Picton Pirates team eager to stay alive appeared to have the Raiders on the ropes Thursday, leading 4-2 going into the third period in front of a boisterous packed house.  Napanee would tally four times in the last stanza to cap the game 6-4 and the series 4-2.

After Trent Williams drew his team within a goal just before the half-way point, the Raiders continued to swarm the net.  Nearly two minutes later, Andrew Carr found a puck in the crease that had just trickled past goaltender Nic McGrayne. He tapped it in to tie.

The Raiders seemed to find more energy as the game wore on and with 2:39, Michael Patrick gave Napanee its first lead of the game through heavy traffic.

Picton pressed with the empty net, creating pressure and scrums around Logan Vale’s net but Napanee staved off the attack before Carr finally iced it away with an empty netter with just 11 seconds left.

Early in the game, Picton’s Cole Stevenson opened the scoring, following a defensive zone turnover.  Ben Chubbs would tie just over two minutes later, sprung with a long breakaway pass from Connor Brooks.

Gerrit Kempers restored the Picton lead before the end of the first.  It took little time for Napanee to respond off the start of the second period with Cam Krupa deflecting home a goal.  Nick Kirby and Luc Amat scored for the Pirates in that period to establish the late lead.

Krupa and defenceman Erik MacNiel both had four-point efforts in the deciding contest.

Earlier in the series:

Game 1 – After Kempers got the Pirates ahead early in the first, Napanee scored four unanswered goals with two in each of the last two stanzas.  Blake Aylesworth paced the attack with a pair, while Ben White and Reid Lambert had singles.

Ethan Babin turned aside 21 of 22 shots before leaving the game  as Ian Harrison made contact with him on a play assessed a charging major. Babin would not return to the series.

Game 2 –  It was the Pirates’ turn to come from behind and the Stevenson brothers provided the heroics in a tight-checking affair.

Ryan Kidd struck first for Napanee.  Younger Pirate Kirk Stephenson evened it in the second and that was it for the scoring as McGrayne and Vale stopped 37 and 34 shots respectively in regulation.  The Raiders would hit two crossbars in the third frame.

Cole Stevenson got loose 4:20 into the extra frame and snapped home the winning goal in a 2-1 decision.

Game 3 –  McGrayne helped his team stave off a slow start as Napanee outshot Picton 12-3 in the first period, but had nothing to show for it.

The Pirates struck first as Reese Kleinsteuber scored the only goal of the second.

Christos Chronis finally snuck a puck into the cage 5:17 into the third period, joining an odd man rush after sitting two minutes for goaltender interference.   A Connor Brooks point shot found its way home about seven minute later to give Napanee a lead, then Aylesworth potted an insurance market in the empty net for a 4-1 win.

Ultimately, McGrayne turned aside 37 in the loss, while Vale tidily set aside 22 of Picton’s 23 shots.

Game 4 –  Brooks scored his second game-winning goal in as many contests on a well-executed power play attempt with 17 seconds to play, about halfway through a late man advantage.  Patrick won a face-off into the empty cage eight second later to cap the 5-3 win.

After Carr tipped a Brooks point shot 18 seconds into the game, Kirby tied it at 3:22 off a steal in the slot.  Zack Brooks would strike two more times in succession for the Pirates to build a 3-1 lead.  White and Carr balanced the scales for the Raiders by the end of the second.

Vale stopped 25 shots to win. McGrayne was busy again with 40 stops.

Game 5 –  Picton took advantage of a sluggish start by the Raiders in a potential elimination game. Aiden Treverton and Nick Kirby staked a 2-0 lead on the Pirates’ first two opportunities, scoring 25 seconds apart just over three minutes into the game.

Zack Brooks would extend the lead early in the second with a hard shot to the upper half of the net Vale couldn’t counter.

Krupa would strike later in the second, but that was all the scoring Napanee could muster as McGrayne shut the door to help his team force Game 6 in Picton.

The Raiders advance to face the first-seed Frankford Huskies in Round 2. The series is expected to start in Frankford on Tuesday.  Elsewhere, Port Hope got past Campbellford in four games. The Panthers will face the Amherstview Jets in the other Tod Division semifinal.