The youthful Nepean, Ont., Raiders have come of age on the way to the Central Junior Hockey League championship.
Nepean had a 12-5 playoff performance with five 16-year-olds on its roster, including four who play most games.
“Our team defence overall was very good,” said Nepean general manager/coach Chris Byrne. “Our defence is strong and our forwards are committed to defence first.
“The defence was the difference a lot of nights. The first four on defence are Grant Clitsome, Michael Novosad, 16-year-old Shawn Fensel and Michael Beynon.
“We have strong offence from our guys on the blueline. They also played well defensively.”
Clitsome, Novosad and Fensel were first, second and third in playoff scoring among league defencemen, respectively.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Clitsome, who celebrated his 18th birthday today, led league playoff defencemen with 10
assists and 15 points in 17 games. Novosad, 19, had nine assists and 11 points in 17 games.
Fensel had seven assists and 10 points in 17 games. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Beynon contributed four goals and eight points in 17 games.
Veteran goalie Andy Leblanc, who celebrated his 21st birthday today, was another playoff star for Nepean.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Leblanc led league playoff goalies with a 12-5 won-lost record in 1,021 minutes. He had a 2.47 goals against average and .919 saves percentage.
“Andy made big saves when he had to,” said Byrne. “He was solid. He wasn’t susceptible to weak goals.
“He seemed to calm things down for us.”
Leblanc has a 3.10 goals against average and 37-20-5 won-lost-tied record in 3,779 minutes overall. He led the league with a 25-15-5 won-lost-tied record in 2,758 minutes during the regular schedule.
Veterans Andrzej Sandrzyk and Tyler Akeson and centre Mickey Gilchrist are Nepean’s leading scorers as the team prepares for the Fred Page Cup championship April 23-27 in Cornwall, Ont.
The Cornwall Colts of the CJHL, the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League champion Charlottetown, P. E. I., Abbies and la Ligue de Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec champion Cougars de Lennoxville will also compete for the Fred Page Cup.
Right winger Sandrzyk, 20, has 42 goals, 73 assists and 115 points in 70 games overall. He led league playoff scorers with 14 assists and 23 points in 17 games.
Sandrzyk was 10th in the league with 92 points, including 59 assists, in 53 regular-season games.
Centre Akeson, 20, tied for seventh among league playoff scorers with 17 points, including 12 assists, in 17 games. He was fifth in the league with 61 assists and tied for 12th in the league with 86 points in 54 games during the regular schedule.
Akeson has 73 assists and 103 points in 71 games overall.
Gilchrist, 18, tied for second among league playoff scorers with 13 assists and was fourth among league playoff scorers with 19 points in 17 games. He tied for 16th in the league with 76 points, including 34 goals, in 55 regular-season games and has 95 points, including 40 goals, in 72 games overall.
“Rookies led the team in scoring at the end of the first playoff series,” said Byrne. “Those guys have stepped up since then.”
Nepean was first in the Yzerman Division, and third overall, with a 32-17-6 record, including two overtime wins, during the regular schedule. It is 44-22-6, including two overtime wins, in 72 games overall.
“The young guys have played well,” said Byrne, who doesn’t expect them to falter in the Cornwall tournament.
The Fred Page Cup champion will advance to the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship May 3-11 in Charlottetown. The tournament finalist will qualify for Royal Bank Cup if Charlottetown wins the Fred Page Cup.
Please check the CJAHL web site at www.cjahl.com for all your Canadian junior A information