The Napanee Raiders believe they have enough talent to win a second straight Ontario Junior C hockey championship.
The Raiders won the title last April for the second time in the team’s 30-year history. They beat the Grimsby Peach Kings 4-1 in the Schmaltz Cup final.
When the season was over, head coach Mike Hartwick announced his resignation. He wanted to spend more time with his family and help coach his son’s team with the Quinte Red Devils minor hockey association.
Ben Hagerman is the new man behind the bench and he relishes the role of maintaining a level of excellence.
“As provincial champs, we certainly have a target on our backs,” said Hagerman, who played with the Raiders from 2005 to 2010.
The new boss says it’s his job to worry about what this team needs to do to be successful.
“The past is the past,” the Napanee native said. “Winning this year will be different.
“There’s a good core of players returning and they’re hungry to do it all over again. The pieces for continued success are still there. We’ve got a ton of talent and experience and two quality goaltenders in Bailey Maracle and Mitch Bown.”
Hagerman said he wants to get off to a good start and “see what we can do” from there.
“I don’t want my players to get ahead of themselves. The Tod Division is one of the best in the province and we know that Port Hope, Picton, Gananoque, Amherstview and Campbellford will provide intense competition.”
The Raiders open there season on Saturday in Uxbridge against the Bruins. They met last year in the provincial quarter-final and Napanee won the playoff series in four straight games.
The Raiders home opener at the Strathcona Paper Centre is Friday, Sept. 20 against the Port Hope Panthers.
The Grimsby Peach Kings were the last team to win back-to-back provincial Junior C titles in 2011-12.
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