ARNPRIOR – This one’s for the right to play in the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League (EOSHL) 2022 Championship Series, so there’s no room for error for the West Carleton Rivermen Saturday night (March 26) at the Nick Smith Centre.
When the EOSHL West Division championship series got underway last week (March 18) West Carleton Online’s keys to victory pointed out the Rivermen needed to find a way to solve Gananoque Islanders’ goalie Nicholas Nabuurs who, before the series began was boasting a .969 save percentage stopping 64 of 66 shots in the team’s opening round series with the first place Smith Falls Rideaus.
Well, that problem wasn’t too hard for the Rivermen to solve, pumping eight goals past Nabuurs in an unbelievable 8-7, come from behind win in Arnprior March 19 in game two.
Tomorrow night, starting at 7:45 p.m. the two teams will square off again for the third and deciding game in the western final.
The obvious first key, is a full barn of fans for the Rivermen to play in front of in the Bert Hall Arena at the Nick Smith Centre. Attendance has been steadily growing for Rivermen playoff games, with last week’s attendance of 180 being the largest yet and the third home game in a row attendance increased. But compare that to the competition, and the number doesn’t look as good. More than 700 Tweed fans packed the arena for the Oil King’s first home date in the first series and another 400 came out for Game 3, which the Rivermen won in overtime. Around 307 fans attended Gananoque’s home game in round two.
Rivermen coach Mike Byrne says the fans that have been there have made a big difference helping the team remain undefeated at home in the EOSHL playoffs.
“As for the crowd, Saturday was incredible,” Byrne told West Carleton Online earlier this week (March 21). “Without a doubt our best crowd yet, and the team absolutely fed off that. It was without a doubt a home ice advantage for us.”
The Rivermen are pulling out all the stops tomorrow for the game. They brought in the big guns as former Ottawa Senator anthem singer The Singing Policeman, Lyndon Slewidge will kick off the evening with the national anthem. The Town of Arnprior is opening the Community Hall Saturday, meaning the licensed area will be providing adult beverages during the game and between intermission although no alcohol is permitted outside of the hall. And don’t forget Chuck-a-Puck.
On the ice there is plenty of local talent to cheer on. The Rivermen are backstopped by former Arnprior Packer, Kanata’s Erik Miksik. Deep River’s Stephen Bird and Petawawa’s Liam Poirier are also former Packers. Rivermen team owner Adrian Moyes calls Galetta home, Joshua Snider is a Woodlawn native, Ryley Egan is a Carp native and Hulford calls Stittsville home.
2019-2020 EOSHL Defenceman of the year Zack Rheaume agrees the fans and their noise helps, of which plenty was generated last week.
“It was very exciting, nice to see some fans show up and support us,” Rheaume told West Carleton Online. “Hopefully they enjoyed what they saw and will be back (this) weekend.”
Although the Rivermen’s leading scorer in the regular season and the 2022 EOSHL playoff leading goal scorer (with six) Alex Hulford joked if the Rivermen “score eight more goals and I think we have a pretty good chance,” the team will key on playing better defence in game three.
Stittsville native and former OHL defenceman Ryan Duhaime says the Rivermen will be committed to defence in game three.
“We need to find the open guy to tie up and be more responsible in our zone,” Duhaime told West Carleton Online. “They’re too offensively skilled to give up some of the chances we are.”
Coach says he won’t worry too much about puck zones if the team keeps putting out the effort it has so far.
“I’m happy with how we’ve been playing,” Byrne said. “A bit more attention to detail defensively would be great, but mostly, I just want the team to continue doing what’s been working.”
Offensively, the team will just keep on keepin’ on.
“Just put everything on net and empty the tank,” Hulford said.
Rheaume says the Rivermen, after a wild COVID-19-affected EOSHL 2021-2022, are ready for anything.
“We’ve overcome adversity many times before,” he said. “We need to have a good start to the game and play solid defensively.”
Tickets, available at the gate, are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for youth 13 to 17. Kids under 18 and accompanied by a paying adult get in free.
And for those true hockey lovers out there, head to the Nick Smith Centre earlier in the day for a double-header of local playoff hockey. The Arnprior Packers continue their playoff run in round two of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Packers face the Perth Blue Wings in Perth tonight (March 25) in game one of the best-of-five Richardson Division semi-finals. Game two will be held Saturday, March 26 at the Nick Smith Centre starting at 4:30 p.m.