The start of the PJHL Tod Division schedule has been a grind for the Napanee Raiders with six games leading into Oct. 1 – including three in three nights last weekend, but they’ve proven up to the challenge.
To date, the Raiders have outscored their opponents 40-18 as they’ve now faced five of six teams, including Frankfort and Amherstview twice. The closest challenge to Napanee’s unbeaten record came Friday night with the Port Hope Panthers in town for just their second game of the season. Blake Aylesworth converted a Ben Carter pass 2:52 into overtime to secure the victory, following a 48-save performance by Port Hope goalie Sam Dingle. Tyler McGarvey put the visitors up early and as momentum swung in Napanee’s favour, Beckett Palmer-Stephen tied it just 24 seconds into the third period.
The home-ice victory was bookended with a pair of road wins over the past week, each characterized by Napanee’s depth shining through late. After two periods Thursday, the Raiders trailed the Picton Pirates 3-2 after 40 minutes as they scored four unanswered goals off the sticks of Ben White, Palmer-Stephen, Carter, and Maverick Laurie. Alex Zamuner turned aside 42 shots, while his Picton counterpart Brock Sallans stopped 45. Noah Westwater and Nick Goosney had the other Napanee goals, while Hosea Aculiak, former Raider Rheydan McCoy, and Ian Harrison had the goals.
On Saturday, the Raiders and Huskies played tight hockey for the better part of two periods until Napanee exploded for six straight goals late. A newly-formed line of Carter, Cameron Krupa, and Christos Chronis showed some great chemistry to lead the way. Carter notched a hat trick, Krupa had two goals and two assists, and Chronic had a goal and a helper. Other tallies went to Aylesworth, Adam Nuttall, Jakob DaCosta, and Cole Campbell. Karsten Leonard, Heiden Leonard, and Byson Sills replied for the home side. Bailey miracle turned aside 25 shots to win his second game in as many nights.
The Raiders’ first foray into Amherstview’s W.J. Henderson Arena Sept. 25 was a wild one with major momentum shifts in an 8-6 victory. Napanee jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the first on the strength of two Marshall McFarland power play goals, then two White goals, including a shorthanded steal. The Jets drew within one as Matt Donovan, Eric Russell and Zac McMahon scored in succession with two late first-period goals and a marker 21 seconds into the next frame.
Labrie and Krupa and the Jets’ McMahon and Russell traded goals before the end of the second to leave the Raiders with a one-goal lead into the last frame. Ryan Kidd and Krupa scored in the third to give the Raiders a bit of a cushion, though a late Jets rush by Ryan Kudo meant they could never rest easy.
At the conclusion of the game, Kudo fired a puck just after the buzzer, drawing the ire of the Raiders and sparking a melee inside the Napanee blue line. Both teams had players leaving the bench. In the aftermath, Napanee’s John Hearns and Amherstview’s Cole McEwen both received suspensions for leaving the bench and the Jets’ Jack Wiley also incurred a suspension for being an instigator and aggressor of a one-man fight.
Two nights earlier, the Huskies made their first visit to the Strathcona Paper Centre and, again, it was a close affair for two periods. Frankford startled Napanee with two goals in the first 1:45 from former Raider Blake Ellis and Jake Arnold. Krupa and Wastewater knotted it in the first, then Carter put Napanee up three minutes into the second. This time, Frankfort countered with Phoenix Smith and Jacob Tinney giving their team a lead three quarters of the way through the second.
As they would several times later in the season, Napanee mounted a comeback. Hearns notched his first late in the second and then Napanee got four goals in the third for an 8-4 decision. Chronis, Will Potts, McFarland and Aylesworth had the goals. Zamuner settled in for his first win, stopping 37.
The season opened Sept. 16 with a one-sided rematch of the 2021-2022 Tod Division final as the Raiders downed the Jets 6-1. Nuttall opened the season scoring and Amherstview’s Andrew White replied less than 40 seconds later. Napanee scored five unanswered goals with Krupa notching a pair and Aylesworth, Noah Jacobsen, and Chronis scoring singles. Maracle turned aside 29 shots in the win.
The Raiders host Amherstview again Friday evening and play Port Hope on the road Saturday before Thanksgiving.