Napanee Raiders executives, coaches, players and fans gathered Wednesday at Selby Hall to look back on a season that was simultaneously one of its best yet ended much shorter than panned.
In the regular season the local Junior C hockey team shattered records with a 37-2-1 record while homegrown Ryan Casselman dominated the scoring charts with 48 goals and 69 assists.
Come playoff time however it was a completely different story as they failed to win a single series, losing to the Amherstview Jets in Game 7 of the league semifinals, their earliest exit in four years.
“We had a great year this past season,” said team president Morris Hart. “Most points ever for a team. Most goals (302) scored, least number of goals against (70) and likely the least penalized team — when you take out the 10- minute misconducts — in Ontario. We were fast and very creative and were a real treat to watch. I realize we were all in a shock when we didn’t complete our mission, but things happen for a reason. We learned from our failure.
“I had an old coach tell me, and it makes a lot of sense, there’s no future in our past,” added Hart.
Head coach Mike Hartwick, who announced he’d return behind the bench for a sixth season next year, echoed those sentiments.
“We had an ultimate goal of continuing and playing deep into the playoffs, even for another three or four weeks,” said Hartwick. “Sometimes things don’t go as planned and that’s called life, regardless if it’s jobs, schooling or sports, whatever the case may be. With that being said, although it didn’t end the way we wanted, there were a lot of individual accomplishments that each player had right through the lineup.”
Casselman earned the team’s President’s Trophy, as well as being feted for being the team’s top scorer. He was also named the league’s MVP earlier this year.
With nine points in seven games, team captain Justynn Steven was the team’s top playoff scorer. He also took home the Judy Jarmin award as the forward with the best plus/minus rating. Matt Panetta had the best plus/minus on defense.
Jake Campbell stood out in a crowd of 10 rookies to earn the Ron Lakins.
For his leadership on the ice and in the Napanee community, Josh Murphy earned the Harold Webster.
Racking up just 18 penalty minutes, Riley Steeves earned the Howard Sweet for most sportsmanlike player.
Austin Labelle and Griffen Conger shared the Earl Morrison, which is given to players who shine but doesn’t always get the attention they deserve.
Zach Knapp-Hermer, who completed his team record sixth season with the Raiders, was voted by his teammates as the recipient of the George Magold for best teammate.
The goaltending duo of Nicholas Nabuurs and Jeremy Piazzi were also honoured for posting the best team goals against average in the league.
They also had a special send-off for overagers Knapp-Hermer, Will Peirson, Murphy and Steeves.
As they closed out the banquet, Hart looked to their history as a potential of good things to come. In 1991-1992 the team went undefeated at 27-0-3, but didn’t even make it out of their league in the playoffs. They came back in 1992-1993 and won the Schmalz Cup. It was the same story in 2008-09 when they set a then record with a 37-3 record, only to lose in the league finals. They came back in 2009-2010 to reach the Schmalz Cup semifinal.