ARNPRIOR – The West Carleton Rivermen received a wake-up call in the final game of the season, but now the team can turn its focus to hosting opening night of the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League (EOSHL) playoffs on March 5.
The Rivermen dropped their final game of the season 5-4 at Arnprior’s Nick Smith Centre Saturday (Feb. 26) afternoon in front of the team’s largest crowd of the regular season with close to 100 paying fans. They were treated to a great game as the Gananoque Islanders came in to the game as the hottest team in the league winning six of its last seven games after toppling the Rivermen 5-4 and grabbing the final EOSHL West Division playoff spot on the back of the streak.
The Rivermen put themselves behind the eight-ball early in the game down 3-1 on the strength of two power play goals for the Islanders at the end of the first period and 4-1 early in the second. But the team put up a spirited comeback which included a short-handed goal with less than five minutes remaining in the third, but could not get the tying goal.
Carp’s Ryley Egan, Petawawa’s Liam Poirier (and one assist), Kingston’s Eric Lanciault and Woodlawn’s Joshua Snider (and one assist) provided goals for the Rivermen.
The end result of the game would not affect the standings for the Rivermen who will finish the season in third in the EOSHL West with a 11-6-1 record. The Tweed Oil Kings took advantage of their two games at hand winning both in order to end the season with a 14-4-0 record and second place in the division. The Rivermen knew they would be facing the Oil Kings in the first round for a few weeks now.
The first round is a best of three and the Rivermen will host the Oil Kings at the Nick Smith Centre Saturday (March 5) evening with a 7:30 p.m. face-off. The next two games will be in Tweed based on the teams’ records. West Carleton Online spoke to Rivermen coach Mike Byrne about the Saturday night match-up yesterday (Feb. 28).
“Tweed is a very good hockey team, and they have a deep roster,” Byrne said. “Four strong lines, six solid defencemen and two strong goalies every night. The team works incredibly hard and plays extremely well positionally.”
The Oil Kings went 8-2 down the last half of he EOSHL regular season. One of those two losses came against the Rivermen 5-2 on Feb. 5. Head-to-head, each team won its home match.
Despite ending the season five points behind the Oil Kings in the final standings, the Rivermen match up well. The Rivermen scored 100 regular season goals, second most in the EOSHL West and fifth overall in the 12-team league. The Rivermen allowed only 75 goals against all season placing it in second in the west and fourth in the league. The differential of +25 also puts the Rivermen fourth in the league. The Oil Kings scored 91 goals and allowed 80 for a differential of +11. Byrne says the club needs to start the game hot.
“We have no choice but to come out with energy and ensure we are skating and not taking any unnecessary risks,” he said. “Tweed also moves the puck very well, so we need to stay out of the box.”
Tweed’s top offensive threat is Andrew Rhynold (16 GP, 19 G, 11 A) who averaged 1.9 points per game (PPGA). The 32-year-old Bowmanville, ON native previously played in the Empire B Junior C Hockey League.
“Andrew Rhynold is an extremely skilled hockey player and will capitalize if we make any mistakes,” Byrne said. “For us, it starts with attention to detail in our defensive zone and trying to keep shots to the perimeter. We won’t be able to afford to make defensive breakdowns.”
Byrne says Rhynold isn’t the only Oil King player worth paying attention to.
“Tweed is far too skilled, with players like Rhynold, Murray Free and Jesse Douglas more than capable of making us pay for our mistakes,” Byrne said.
Free has the same PPGA as Rynold with 12 goals and 14 assists in 14 games. The 33-year-old Campbellville, ON native played two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals in 2006 and 2007. Douglas had 20 points (6 G, 14 A) in 15 games. A Peterborough, ON native, the 24-year-old played for the Peterborough Petes U18 team as well as in the Provincial Junior Hockey League.
The Rivermen have their own goal scorers as well with Stittsville’s Alex Hulford (17 GP, 16 G, 13 A), Carp’s Ryley Egan (18 GP, 10 G, 13 A), and team owner, Galetta’s Adrian Moyes (18 GP, 9 G, 10 A) expected to provide offense for the Rivermen.
On the back end the Rivermen have 2019-2020 EOSHL Defenceman of the Year, Gloucester’s Zack Rheaume (15 GP, 3 G, 16 A). Kanata’s Erik Miksik, a former Arnprior Packer, has been solid in nets all season long with a 6-4 record, 3.22 GAA and .916 save percentage.
The Rivermen have also been gaining momentum in the stands as well. For the second home game in a row attendance has increased with more than 100 fans taking in the game. The Rivermen get only one home game in the opening round and Byrne says having a full barn would mean the world to the team.
“I think there is a direct correlation between the size of the crowd and the energy our team comes out of the gate with,” Byrne said. “We had our biggest crowd Saturday, which was awesome, but we’ve also played very well in some other games where we had a good number of fans, North Dundas for example. Our fans are more than capable of giving us the home ice advantage, and we can’t wait to see everyone out this Saturday.”
Under new provincial policies there are no capacity limits (due to COVID) or vaccine passports required. Masks are still required. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for youth 16 to 18, kids under 18 are free when accompanied by a paying adult. If more than 200 fans come to the game the Rivermen will be giving away $200 to a lucky fan and don’t forget the super-popular chuck-a-puck. Plenty of Rivermen swag available as well.
The other EOSHL playoff series includes the west division winning Smith Falls Rideaus (15-3-0) versus the Islanders (9-7-2). In the EOSHL East Division, the South Grenville Rangers (14-2-2) versus the Glengarry Pipers (6-11-1) and the North Dundas Rockets (14-2-2) versus the Cornwall Prowlers (9-6-2) who are the defending EOSHL champions from the 2019-2020 season.