A playoff berth for the Napanee Raiders has long been a foregone conclusion, however the outcome of game that officially clinched it had a bit of suspense to it.
Napanee’s 5-3 road win on Thursday over the Picton Pirates assured them of fifth straight appearance.
The Raiders built a 3-0 lead after the first period on goals from Curtis Marrison, Bailey Matthews and Cullen Hinds.
Picton’s Will Harrison and Napanee affiliate Nick Babcock traded goals in the second as the Raiders took a 4-1 lead into the third.
Picton staged a late rally attempt to keep it interesting as Justin Arnold scored two minutes into the third and Matt Poole added another at the 7:47 mark to cut the Raider lead to one. That score held deep into the frame until Picton pulled goalie Kyle Renaud in an attempt to get the tying goal. Instead Napanee gained control of the puck and Brodie Maracle flipped it into the Pirate net with just seconds left on the clock to secure the 5-3 victory.
Bailey Maracle earned the win, stopping 29 attempts. Renaud faced 40 shots in the loss. Napanee was 0-1 on the power-play, but did score during one of their three penalty kills. Picton was held scoreless on all three of their power-plays.
Their playoff spot secure, the Raiders can now focus their remaining 17 games on locking up the top seed and gearing up for the postseason. They were due a good test on Friday, when the Orr Division’s Kawartha Knights, one of two teams to beat the Raiders all year, were scheduled to visit the SPC. Results weren’t known at press time. On Sunday they were scheduled to welcome the Campbellford Rebels. Napanee will close out 2018 with a pair of games this weekend, travelling to Amherstview on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. puck drop and Clarington on Sunday to face the Eagles at 5:20 p.m.
Napanee entered Friday’s game with a 24-2-1 record, good for 49 points. Picton is second at 19-9-0-1, Amherstview third at 15-10-2, Gananoque fourth at 9-16-1, Port Hope fifth at 7-19-0-2 and Campbellford last at 1-27-0-1.