by Romano Di Franco
NEPEAN, ON – The Nepean Raiders hosted the Brockville Braves at the Nepean Sportsplex Steve Yzerman Arena for a Sunday matinee.
It was the fifth and final meeting between the two teams. Brockville has had the Raiders’ number this year going 4-0 in the process and outscoring Nepean 29-9 in the season series.
Brandon Abbott (14-7, 0.915 SV%, 2.48 GAA) got the start in the net for Brockville while Nathan Loisel (4-12-1, 0.884 SV%, 4.75 GAA) was between the pipes for Nepean.
The Raiders continued to bolster their lineup with call-ups from the Championship-winning Nepean Raiders U18 squad. This time it was Jack Matsukubo, Rookie of the Year Cole Beaudoin, and U18 Defenseman of the Year, Nicholas Larkin and playoff scoring leader Luka Benoit.
The Braves had scored first in each of the four previous games and today was more of the same as Ryan Bonfield gave the Braves a 1-0 lead with the man-advantage. Justin Dauphinais made the cross-ice pass in front of the net that Bonfield deposited before Loisel could get back to the right post.
Jack Hillier brought the Raiders even with a PowerPlay of their own. Anthony Rivard called for the puck and one-timed a Nolan Mozer pass that Abbott stopped but Hillier pounced on the rebound to make it a 1-1 game.
Nepean would take the lead before the end of the period after Colin Elliott went to the box for High Sticking. Zachary Lefebvre matched his jersey number with his 22nd of the season. Lefebvre redirected a point-shot by Samuel Beaulne. Anthony Rivard had the other helper.
After 20 minutes the Raiders led 2-1 over the Robinson Division leading Brockville Braves outshooting their opponents 15-9 in the process.
Caleb Kean made it a 2-2 game after a little dipsy-doodle move fooled Loisel allowing Kean to go 5-hole.
Jack Matsukubo restored Nepean’s lead with his first CCHL goal. Zachary Lefebvre’s shot was blocked but Braves netminder Abbott was out of position and Matsukubo was in prime position to bury the puck to give the Raiders the 3-2 lead.
Ryan Bonfield’s second goal of the game tied the game at three with 90 seconds left in the second.
After 40 minutes, the score was deadlocked at 3-3. The Braves outshot the Raiders 16-13 in the second but the Raiders held on to the overall lead at 28-25.
The Affiliate Players continued to make their mark as Nicholas Larkin tallied his first CCHL goal to put the Raiders back out in front 4-3. It was a bit of a pinball goal with the puck caroming off the back-boards and then bouncing off Abbott and into the net. Jack Matsukubo and Ryan Iwachniuk were in on the scoring.
The Raiders thought they made it 5-3 after a scramble in front of the Brockville net. The referee was in perfect position to waive it off but the play resulted in a Gross Misconduct penalty to Brockville’s Jack McDonald.
An empty netter by Ryan Liverman did make it 5-3 as they Raiders skated off with a win in their second last game of a busy March schedule.
Nicholas Larkin (1G)) was named the game’s first star, Ryan Bonfield (2G) got the nod as second star. Jack Matsukubo (1G | 1A) earned the third star.
Anthony Rivard (2A) was named the hardest working Raider.
The Raiders close out March on Wednesday with their final home game of the season hosting the Navan Grads at the Nepean Sportsplex Steve Yzerman Arena for a 7:30pm puck drop.