The Napanee Raiders rode a four-game winning streak into the end of the regular season to finish with the fourth-highest percentage in the entire PJHL as well as the top seed in the Tod Division playoffs.
For the second time in as many weekends, the Raiders required overtime to beat a pesky Frankford Huskies team on the road. In the extra stanza Saturday, Ben White burst down the left wing with Connor Brooks in the slot, at the ready for a one-timer. White used his teammate as a defence man and fired his game-winning shot under the bar behind goalie Hayden Candler with just three seconds left in the seven-minute extra frame.
It was White’s second goal of the game, while Reid Lambert and Michael Patrick had the other goals. Bailey Maracle turned aside 31 shots in the win as former Raider Blake Ellis, division goal-scoring leader Jacob Tinney, and Iain Brown replied for the host Huskies.
A week previous, defenceman Ryan Kidd was the overtime hero on a similar play. As Raiders’ top scorer Cameron Krupa went to the net, Kidd delivered a partially-screened shot past Candler just 1:32 into overtime. White, Patrick, and co-captain Soren Zamuner had the other tallies. Brown, Kieran Ellis, and Jakob Gardner scored for the Huskies, who captured more points against the Raiders than any other squad this year. Alex Zamuner took the win in net, not allowing a goal after coming on in relief of Maracle in the first period.
The Raiders didn’t have a home game in the final two weeks of the season. They had a rare night off Feb. 24, then saw their home finale against Campbellford snowed out. It will not be rescheduled.
Prior to the pair of wins over Frakford, the Raiders had a statement weekend Feb. 17-19, defeating Port Hope and Amherstview after those teams had beaten them earlier in the month.
At home Friday, the Raiders rallied with five third-period goals to top the Panthers 6-4. Krupa turned in a two-goal performance with Ben Carter, Maverick Labrie, Blake Aylesworth and Patrick also scoring. Tyler McGarvey, Isaac Langdon, Chris Brydges and Carter Clarke had the Port Hope goals.
Two days later, the Raiders got out to a 3-0 lead on their way to a 7-3 win over the Jets at Henderson Arena. Aylesworth, Krupa, and Beckett Palmer-Stephen handled the early scoring to build a comfortable lead before the Raiders got a scare on two Amherstview shorthanded goals by Nolan Stevenson and Boden White 30 seconds apart. Fortunately, Patrick replied just 11 seconds later.
Payton Clarke brought Amherstview within one again in the second period, but the Raiders were too strong as Christos Chronis and Palmer-Stephen found the net again before the 40-minute mark and Patrick tacked on his second in the third.
The Raiders finished the 2022-2023 season with a 35 wins, five losses and one overtime loss for 71 points, 11 points ahead of second-place Amherstview. As a result, they secured the Mason Budarick Memorial Trophy for first place and a first-round playoff bye.
Napanee will await its first opponent, which will be the lowest seeded team advancing from series between Picton (3) and Campbellford (6), and Port Hope (4) and Frankford (5). The earliest the second round could start is Tuesday, March 21. Schedules are to be determined.
Meanwhile, the Raiders will continue to practice to prepare. This weekend, fans will have an opportunity to meet some of their favourite players at a public skate on the Goodyear Rink at the SPC from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday, March 12.