The Napanee Raiders are the team to beat in Junior C hockey

The Napanee Raiders have skated to first place in the Todd Division of the Provincial Junior C Hockey League and they plan to stay there.

Mike Hartwick’s club currently sports a record of 22-1-1. They lead the second place Picton Pirates by 10 points.

The Raiders learned a valuable lesson last year and they don’t plan on making the same mistake. They easily won the division pennant but proceeded to lose to the Amherstview Jets in the first round of the playoffs.

“That was a tough pill to swallow but we learned from it, and we’re moving forward,” said Ryan Casselman, the team’s leading scorer in 2017.

The Raiders are taking nothing for granted this year. They’re taking it one game at a time. That’s been the team’s philosophy since the drop of the puck in September.

“We have a strong team and we know it,” Casselman said.

“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, but we have four solid lines, a pretty tight defence and two great goalies in Nicholas Nabuurs and Bailey Maracle. We know something special is going on here, and we plan to keep it going.”

Nabuurs, like Casselman, is in his final year of junior hockey. The 21-year-old netminder from Aurora would like nothing better than to win an OHA championship.

Napanee last won the Clarence “Tubby” Schmaltz Trophy in 1993. They beat the Hanover Barons in a six-game series.

“Winning that cup is the long-term goal,” Nabuurs said. “But there’s lots of hockey left to play. We’re a confident group that believes in one another. It starts in the dressing room with the coaches and as soon as we hit the ice, it’s all business and we’re ready to go.”

The Raiders have currently won 19 games in a row. They’re hoping number 20 comes on Friday night when they host their arch-rivals, the Amherstview Jets.

Game time is 7:30 p.m at the Strathcona Paper Centre.

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