by Romano Di Franco
KANATA, ON – The Nepean Raiders closed out the CCHL Showcase against the Navan Grads on Thanksgiving Monday. It was the first regular season meeting between the two teams and it was also the second game for Nepean on the large Olympic-sized ice pad at the Mattamy arena at the Bell SensPlex.
Navan came into the game with a 4-2-1 record to put them in third place in the Yzerman Division while the Raiders, with their 1-5-0-2 record, currently sit in sixth place in the Yzerman Division
Luca Sandu (1-1, 6.27 GAA, 0.853 SV%) was in goal for Nepean while Braedyn McIntosh (4-2, 2.35 GAA, 0.919 SV %) got the start between the pipes in the Grads’ net.
The first two minutes of the game were not particular kind to Nepean as Cayden Faust and Cameron Vassos scored two goals on two shots and that was it for Luca Sandu. Gage Stewart came into the game in relief. Faust’s goal came from the top of the crease after a Gabriel Crete pass from behind the net. The Vassos goal came from a bad angle through a perfect screen by Blake Hall going over the shoulder of Sandu as he guarded the near post making it 2-0 Navan.
Nicholas Bennett made it 3-0 beating Gage Stewart five-hole from point-blank range.
Ryan Liverman had a chance to get one back for Nepean after Tyler Melvin blocked shot in the Raiders’ zone gave Liverman a breakaway but his attempt at the five-hole was denied by McIntosh.
Melvin responded with his third goal in the last four games on an absolute rocket one-timing a feed from Nicholas Larkin from the right face off circle. Luka Benoit was also in on the action picking up a helper on the PowerPlay goal that came with Gabriel Crete in the box for slashing.
After 20 minutes, Navan was up 3-1 outshooting Nepean 11-9.
Nepean cut the lead in half after Harris Hilfiker jumped on a loose puck in the Navan zone and send the puck to a waiting Luka Benoit who took the feed and brought the puck to a stop before ripping it into the near post before a diving McIntosh could come across. Benoit’s fifth goal in the last three games made a 3-2 game. It was a PowerPlay goal for Nepean.
Nepean defenseman Wade Bolton was injured midway through the second after an open-ice shoulder to the head by Blake Hall sent him on the ice for a couple of minutes but he would return to the game.
Luka Benoit tied the score with 99 seconds left in the second period after a perfectly executed 2-on-1 with Ryan Liverman who delivered a text-book saucer pass that Benoit deposited in the back of the net. The play started in the Nepean zone and all five Raiders touched the puck after Liverman’s hit on Gabriel Crete caused a turnover that Joshu Barnes picked up banking the puck off the boards to Bolton who dished to Tyler Melvin who sprung Liverman.
The second frame ended with the score deadlocked at 3-3 with the Raiders outscoring Navan 2-0 in the period despite being outshot 13-7.
Luca Ricciardi almost gave the Raiders the regulation time win taking the puck from behind the puck and ringing it off the crossbar.
A Nepean victory would not be denied as the 3-on-3 OT period saw the line of Tyler Melvin, Coleman Bennett, and Nicholas Larkin produce the winner. Melvin’s blast from the point resulted in a loose puck in the Navan crease that both Bennett and Larkin swiped at before Larkin back-handed the winner passed a stunned Braedyn McIntosh. It was Nepean’s first win against the Grads since December 18, 2019.
Luka Benoit (2G | 1A) was named the game’s first star. Tyler Melvin (1G | 2A) was the second star and Gabriel Crete (2A) captured third star honours.
Gage Stewart (28 saves on 29 shots) was named the Hardest Working Raider for his first win of the season.
Nepean will take a well-deserved rest after the three-games-in-three-days CCHL Showcase saw them go two wins to one loss and are now on a two-game winning streak. They take to the ice again on Sunday October 16 hosting the Rockland Nationals for a 2:30 pm puck drop at the Nepean Sportsplex Steve Yzerman Arena.
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