Nearly one year to the day of their megadeal with the Port Hope Panthers, the Napanee Raiders gathered at the SPC’s Lafarge Banquet Hall on Friday to reflect on their Schmalz Cup winning season.
It was the July 5, 2018 edition of the Napanee Beaver that sported the headline: Raiders make a huge splash, acquire Harris, Kent and Foley from Panthers for cash.
That deal saw an already strong Raiders team add three of the league’s top players (Cam Harris, Dayton Kent and Evan Foley) in one fell swoop, making them instant Schmalz Cup contenders. The team made good on the pre-season hype, finishing first in the regular season with a 38-4-1-1 record before finding an extra gear in the playoffs with a 20-1 run, topping the Grimsby Peach King in five games in the Schmalz Cup Finals.
“This was a special group for sure, and I’m not just talking about the record,” said Raiders head coach Mike Hartwick. “We knew from Day 1 that we had a talented team. We were fast, we were skilled and we had players that played at higher levels and we had young players that were very hungry. The sacrifice these gentlemen gave us all year was amazing. We had people driving for two hours, we had people taking trains.”
Hartwick said players were willing to move from forward to defense mid-game if a need arose.
“The players never whined or thought about points,” said Hartwick. “They were here as a collective unit. I think ultimately what happened was the will matched the skill.”
With the Schmalz Cup placed prominently in the middle of the room, the Raiders coaching staff doled out the team awards.
Napanee’s homegrown Ryan Casselman was well decorated, earning the team’s top scorer award, top playoff second, third and fourth round scorer, the Tod Division’s top overager award, the Sgt. Jason Boyes award as the team’s playoff MVP, George Magold Memorial as the best teammate as voted by the players as well as earning the team’s most prestigious honour, the President’s Award for his leadership, dedication and excellence on and off the ice.
Nicholas Nabuurs was named the league’s goaltender of the year and also shared the Lowest Goals Against Average Duo award with teammate Bailey Maracle. All told the Raiders allowed the fewest goals in the province. Nabuurs credited the team’s defensive unit for his strong season. Fittingly, the entire d-line was awarded the McGreer Family Award, which is usually awarded to just one player deemed to be the best defenceman throughout the season.
Reid Humphrey and Foley shared the Howard Sweet Memorial Trophy, which is given to the most sportsmanlike player. Humphrey had just two penalty minutes all year while Foley had 16. Jacob Gilbert took home the Ron Lakins Memorial Trophy as the team’s rookie of the year. The Jarmin Memorial Trophy, given to the best two-way player went to Harris at forward and Matt Panetta on defense. Nelson Powers was awarded the Harold Webster Memorial Trophy for his leadership on and off the ice. Devon King and captain Riley Steeves shared the Earl Morrison Memorial Trophy, named for the former Napanee Beaver publisher and given to the players who work the hardest and contribute the most with little press or accolades.
A special presentation was also made to Casselman, Nabuurs and Cullen Hinds, who were the team’s three overagers this season.
The team also celebrated winning its 10th Mason Budarick Memorial Award trophy as league champions before getting to the big prize-their Schmalz Cup rings.
Friday’s ceremony may have officially closed the books on the 2018-19 season, but its not one that will soon be forgotten.