The Napanee Raiders won the Provincial Junior C hockey championship Tuesday night in front of a capacity crowd of 1,300 at the Strathcona Paper Centre.
The Raiders beat the Grimsby Peach Kings 3-1, winning the final series in five games.
It ended a 26-year Junior C drought for the Napanee franchise. The Raiders last won the Clarence “Tubby” Schmaltz Trophy in 1993.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” said Raiders head coach Mike Hartwick.
Hartwick, along with assistant coaches Jeff Foster, Mat Goody and Jim Elder, guided the team to a post-season record of 20-1.
They completed a four-game sweep of the Port Hope Panthers, Picton Pirates, Uxbridge Bruins and Alliston Hornets. Their only loss came in game two of the Schmaltz Cup final against Grimsby, 3-2.
“We really played for each other,” Hartwick said.
“We had character players who were used to playoff situations. It was such a privilege to coach this team. This means so much to the town of Greater-Napanee, our executive, our management team and our players. It was our goal at the start of the season and we accomplished what we set out to do.”
It was a special night for Ryan Casselman. The over-age forward won another championship in his final game of junior hockey. Casselman was a member of the Cobourg Cougars in 2017 when they captured the RBC Canadian Junior A championship.
“Lifting the Schmaltz Cup doesn’t get any better than this,” said Casselman, a Napanee native.
“I dreamed about it for a long time and it finally came true. It’s a nice feeling, that’s for sure.”
The 21-year-old Casselman led the Raiders in playoff scoring with 30 points in 21 games. He says their victory was a total team effort.
“Our dressing room is the reason we won. Every practice, every meeting and every game, we were there for each other. We just loved being together and that really makes for a good hockey team. Capturing the Schmaltz is something we’ll never forget.”
Napanee’s captain Justynn Steven scored five goals in the five-game series against Grimsby.
“I am so proud to lead these guys, said the 20-year-old forward from Kingston.
“On and off the ice, we’re best friends. These are the best teammates you can ever have. We’ll remember this for a long time. We’re Ontario champions. There are 64 junior C clubs in the province and we’re number one.”
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