This story was published in the Fall 2022 edition of the Total Sports Quinte magazine
Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quine
After the previous season was wiped out, the Napanee Raiders returned to Provincial Junior Hockey League action last year with a focus on development.
That’s not to say winning wasn’t important, but the Raiders were one of the youngest teams, not only in their division, but in the entire province for junior C teams, notes Raiders head coach Ben Hagerman.
Napanee had no overagers on the team as they iced a younger roster. Still, they found success in capturing the Tod Division title and advancing to the PJHL’s quarterfinals against the Clarington Eagles.
That experience, Hagerman reasons, should only benefit the Raiders, which now have four overagers in co-captains Noah Westwater and Soren Zamuner, Payton Gauthier and goaltender Bailey Maracle along with their young group now another year older.
“We’re definitely a more veteran group and all our 17 and 18 year olds are all a year older with a full season and playoff run under their belt,” Hagerman remarked. “We feel a little bit more experienced and we’ve been able to add some guys that have prior junior hockey experience. “We don’t really know what the rest of the division is going to look like. I think everyone’s done a lot of work this year to get better. We feel confident, but still gotta be cognizant that everyone else went to work, too.”
Hagerman wasn’t surprised by the division title win, but said it was a process the players certainly had to stick with. They finished a few points behind the Amherstview Jets at the conclusion of the regular season and had lost a few head-to-head match-ups to that club late in the campaign before meeting them in the Tod final.
“The guys stuck with it and going through that seven-game series and being able to return a year more experienced with a good chunk of our roster and going to the Eastern Conference final, losing to a great Clarington team, was a heckuva experience for all of us,” Hagerman remarked. “Hopefully we can build off that, but there’s five other teams that want to say something about that and there’s 42 games to play.” Other key returning players for the Raiders include Ben White, Reid Lambert, Connor Brooks, Beckett Palmer-Stephen and Cameron Krupa, who missed about 25 games last season but provided an injection in the lineup when he returned during the playoffs.
A key departure is Logan White, who is attending school in Toronto. Napanee bolstered its lineup, though, with the addition of defenceman Ryan Kidd, who played 51 games last year with the junior A St. Michael’s Buzzers and is attending Queen’s University.
Up front, Christos Chronis and Nicholas Goosney, both AAA players from the Durham area, are expected to boost the offence.
In fact, the coach likes the construction of the entire roster.
“All four lines should be able to create offence and we’re going to have a pretty deep defence that moves the puck very well and gets it in our forwards hands,” Hagerman said. “We feel we’re pretty dynamic offensively, a lot more than last year and with all these good defencemen returning, all a year older, our ability to defend should amplify and if things don’t go right in front of them, we’ve got Bailey back there and feel when Alex gets his starts is very competent in the net.”
A repeat of the division title won’t be easy as Hagerman expects a strong challenge from all clubs, including more competitive games against the Frankford Huskies. He knows Amherstview has a good core of returning players, the Port Hope Panthers have strong overagers to lead their team and the Picton Pirates have a great group of young players steering that ship. “There won’t be a night off any night, at all. If you’re not ready to go, you’re going to be in trouble,” Hagerman said. “Teams will get on top of you early and it could be tough, especially with some of the tough rinks in our league. I expect it to be a very competitive division all season long.”
RAIDERS 2022-23 REMAINING HOME GAMES
Friday, Oct. 28: Picton at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 4: Port Hope at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 11: Amherstview at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 18: Picton at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 25: Frankford at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 2: Campbellford at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 9: Amherstview at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 16: Picton at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 6: Frankford at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 13: Port Hope at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 20: Campbellford at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 27: Amherstview at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 3: Frankford at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 10: Picton at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 17: Port Hope at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 3: Campbellford at Napanee, 7:30 p.m.