Napanee Raiders undefeated after 10 games

The Napanee Raiders are off to a strong start to the 2022-23 season. The team is currently undefeated after their first 10 games. Photo via Napanee Raiders

The Napanee Raiders are proving to be the team to beat this season in the Tod Division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL). After 10 games, the Junior C team remains undefeated, having outscored their opponents 70-33.

General manager Adam Bramburger cited the experience of his players as the key to the team’s success so far. 

“Last year, we had a really young group and we made a bit of a surprise playoff run to win our division and reach the Ontario quarterfinals. And a lot of the guys [from] that year came back [this year]. They’re just a little bit older, a little bit more mature having gone through that run. So they’re really leading,” he said.

Bramburger also noted that the team has worked to develop a strong offence, which has led to an increase in scoring. “We have four lines that can score and we often get our scoring from a lot of people spread out, it becomes a bit harder to defend [against us] that way.” 

Forward Ben Carter is the Raiders’ current points leader. Photo via Napanee Raiders

The team boasts some very impressive individual players. Center Ben Carter leads the Raiders’ stats after racking up 18 points in 10 games played. Veteran and fellow center Cameron Krupa, who missed the majority of last season due to an ankle injury, has not missed a beat since returning to the team’s lineup. With 10 goals in nine games, Krupa leads the team in scoring. “He’s a dynamic player who makes those around him better,” Bramburger said of Krupa’s contributions to the team. 

Having won the 2019 Schmalz Cup, the top trophy in Ontario Junior C hockey, Bramburger noted that the team commands a degree of excellence from both players and coaches as they seek another provincial championship.

“There’s a lot of great hockey players out there. But we’ve really learned over the years that you need the right people with the character and the commitment [who] want to play and want to succeed,” he said.

“[The coaching staff] demand excellence for themselves and they put in the time and the hours, and I think that attracts good players who want to play in that environment with structure and discipline.”

The Raiders are the only team in the province to have won all their games thus far, a streak that Bramburger isn’t too stressed about maintaining. “I don’t think the numbers are ever as important as the process and making sure that we’re committed to our system, that we’re getting all of our lines involved, and really playing hockey the right way. If you do that, the results… will take care of themselves.” 

In 10 games so far this season, the Raiders have outscored their opponents 70-33. Photo via Napanee Raiders

The 2022-23 season also marks the Raiders’ first campaign since 2019-20 without significant COVID-19 restrictions in place, meaning fans have been able to return to the Strathcona Paper Centre in full force.

“It’s actually amazing how much support we’ve had,” Bramburger said. “This year, we’re averaging crowds in the high 300s, no matter what team is in town. I can’t remember the last time, in the regular season, that we’ve had crowds like this. We have a great core of some local kids that came up through Napanee minor hockey, and even Kingston minor hockey. It certainly draws people out to have local players.” 

Bramburger explained that the level of play across the entire league has cemented the PJHL as a reliable source of quality junior hockey. “I think our whole league’s calibre is up from the last few years, as we have [some] players who go to school [or] are focused on life… they’re choosing to play Junior C, [when] they would have chosen Junior A in other years.” 

On Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, the Napanee Raiders will look to make their record 11-0 as they head to Campbellford for a battle with the hometown Rebels. “They have two stable goaltenders behind them, [and] it seems like they’re getting a core group of guys that are starting to come every night,” said Bramburger. The Raiders and Rebels have met once so far this season, with Napanee winning 7-3 at home on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. 

While the Rebels are currently in last place in the Tod division at 0-4, Bramburger noted that his team needs to treat them like a serious opponent. “If we go in with the attitude that they’re in last place, and they’re going to struggle… we may be the ones who struggle.” 

Saturday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. inside the Campbellford-Seymour Community Centre. The Raiders then return home to Napanee next weekend, with a game at the Strathcona Paper Centre on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 at 7:30 p.m., against the Picton Pirates. 

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