The Napanee Raiders continued to celebrate their Ontario Junior C hockey championship win more than two months after the victory.
On April 30, the Raiders beat the Grimsby Peach Kings 3-1 to capture the Clarence “Tubby” Schmaltz Trophy for the first time since 1993.
At the team’s postseason awards banquet last weekend, held at the Strathcona Paper Centre, the players finally received their championship rings.
“It’s great to be back with the boys and relive a wonderful memory,” said team MVP Ryan Casselman.
Casselman won the team’s highest award, the President’s Trophy, for leadership and excellence both on and off the ice.
“I’m just one player,” said the graduating forward.
“It’s a team game, and everybody on this team played incredible. We got along so well, and it showed on the ice. We won 20 of 21 playoff games en route to the title. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Casselman continued: “We won it for Morris Hart, our president. We won it for our hard-working coaches, Mike Hartwick, Mat Goody, Jim Elder and Jeff Foster. More importantly, we won it for the town of Napanee for the first time in 26 years.”
It was a special night for Jeff Foster, who is believed to be the first man to win the Schmaltz Cup as a coach and a player. He was a star defenceman for the championship Raiders back in 1993 when they beat the Hanover Barons in the Ontario final.
“I’m pretty proud of that fact,” said Foster, who next year plans to coach the Greater Kingston Minor Midget Frontenacs.
“As a player, you had input on the ice and, as a coach, you have the input as to the players you put on the ice. You just hope you make the right decisions.”
Foster says he noticed a lot of similarities between this year’s team and the squad he played with more than two decades ago.
“We had grit and determination in ’93,” he said. “This year’s team had tremendous speed and skill. It’s a long grind to win the Schmaltz Cup. Both teams had the will to go the distance. I can honestly say I now have two wonderful Junior C memories that can never be taken away.”
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