An agonizing two-day wait finally came to an end for members of the Nepean Raiders on late Sunday afternoon.
The Raiders concluded their Central Canada Hockey League regular season action this past Friday with a 3-2 overtime road victory against the Pembroke Lumber Kings.
Nepean ended up with 53 points thanks to their 24-33-5-0 record. But the Raiders, who finished their schedule grasping the eighth and final playoff spot, were not guaranteed a postseason berth.
That’s because the Cumberland Grads, who were occupying ninth place in the standings, a mere point behind the Raiders, still had one regular season contest remaining.
The Grads, however, were not able to leapfrog Nepean and grab a playoff spot, losing a Sunday matinee 5-2 against the visiting Gloucester Rangers.
Cumberland also failed to pick up any points on Friday, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Hawkesbury Hawks.
“It was a stressful couple of days just watching the boxscores,” said Nepean head coach Darcy Findlay.
As for their reward for qualifying for the playoffs, well, the Raiders now have to square off in a best-of-seven quarterfinal series against the Carleton Place Canadians, the three-time defending CCHL champs.
“We’re not scared,” Findlay said. “We’re excited. And we’re grateful for the opportunity.”
The schedule was just announced and will commence on Friday night in Carleton Place.
“From Day 1 our first goal of the season was to make the playoffs,” Findlay said. “At this point it’s a new season and anything can happen.”
No doubt, however, the Raiders will enter the series as huge underdogs. The Canadians ended up with almost twice as many points as Nepean did during the season.
Carleton Place racked up an even 100 points, courtesy of its 50-12-0-0 record.
Nepean failed to win any of its five regular season matchups against the Canadians. This included Carleton Place’s 10-1 lopsided triumph versus the Raiders during the season-opening Labour Day Showcase last September.
“They smacked us pretty hard,” Findlay said of his club’s first meeting against the Canadians this season. “We had 16 new players in our lineup. And we were like a deer in the headlights facing the three-time defending league champions.”
The four other games between the two squads were much closer. And the last time they faced each other, back on Feb. 3, Carleton Place eked out a 4-3 win, scoring the game-winning goal with under three minutes to play.
But the odds are clearly not in Nepean’s favour heading into their series against the Canadians. The Raiders failed to qualify for post-season action a year ago.
And of the 22 regulars on their roster, only forward Cameron Bisson has any CCHL playoff experience. Bisson was a member of the Kemptville 73’s last season and appeared in three postseason games.
Findlay though said his squad believes it is capable of providing an upset versus the Canadians.
“They’re bound to lose at some point,” he reasoned.
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