KINBURN – As the inaugural season of the Eastern Ontario Senior A Hockey League (EOSHL) winds down, the West Carleton Rivermen can lock up first place in the home season finale this Friday night.
The Rivermen (13-1-1-1) wrap up their 2019-2020 EOSHL home schedule this Friday (Jan. 24) with a huge game against the surging Cornwall Prowlers (11-2-2-0) at the Kinburn Cavanagh Sensplex. It’s been an exciting year for the Rivermen, dominant from the start.
Despite that, Friday’s game might be a battle to end the season on top of the four-team league. A win and the Rivermen guarantee a first-place finish in the EOSHL before their last game of the season Saturday (Jan. 25) in Deseronto. A loss and Cornwall, who has one game in hand, has a chance to win the division in their last two games of the season.
Both teams would like to face the hapless Maxville Millionaires (2-14-0-0) in the first round of the EOSHL playoffs and both teams have been the class of the EOSHL all season long. Although the regular season isn’t quite over, West Carleton Online spoke with Rivermen general manager and coach Mike Byrne and player-owner, Galetta’s Adrian Moyes, about the Rivermen’s first year in existence and the upcoming playoffs.
Byrne says the team entered the EOSHL with a lot of unknowns, including the strength and even the size of the Rivermen roster, which has been atop the league since Day One.
“We absolutely did not expect this kind of success last summer,” Byrne told West Carleton Online yesterday (Jan. 21). “In early June, when we drafted a roster, we had seven forwards and three defencemen. As the summer progressed, we then thought we could dress 10 forwards and five defence. Now, we have a 30-player roster where we can only get 18 skaters in to the lineup each night.”
That roster has grown in talent all season long but was pretty skilled right from the start. In fact, the scoring starts with ownership.
Moyes is currently second in league scoring with 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points in 16 games. Rivermen forward Alex Hulford is third in league scoring with 19 goals and 18 assists. Hulford leads the EOSHL in goals scored. Ryley Egan sits in fifth in league scoring with 14 goals and 21 assists.
Despite being a new league in senior A hockey and playing in the smallest community of all the EOSHL teams, Byrne says it was surprising easy to build the team and continue to add quality players all year long.
“Putting together the roster has actually been quite simple,” Byrne said. “For the most part, guys have heard about the team and reached out to us about playing. We haven’t really had to do much chasing. We’ve added other pieces throughout the season via referrals or trades, and we are extremely satisfied with the roster we’ve put together.”
But the other teams have been improving as well and their Friday night competition boasts the three other league-leading scorers in the top six (Marc Andre Labelle, Jeff Clarke and Gabriel Veilleux).
“The other teams have been very competitive of late and we don’t expect that to change,” Byrne said.
Although the regular season isn’t over yet and won’t officially end until Feb. 2, the Rivermen already know when and where their first playoff game will be – at home on Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Byrne knows his team has to improve its play and expects the action, and competition, to amp up.
“The playoffs are going to be a battle, and we are going to have to play a full 60 minutes to be successful,” he said. “Lately, we’ve had a few defensive breakdowns leading to goals, which is something we certainly have to fix. We’ve made some line changes recently which has led to better chemistry, but regardless of who we play, the playoffs will be no easy task. Most importantly, the boys will have to be ready right from puck drop.”
Owner-player Moyes, who grew up in Constance Bay playing hockey for the West Carleton Warriors is thrilled with the way the first season has played out juggling game and team management off the ice while leading the team in scoring on the ice.
“Our inaugural season has been so amazing,” Moyes told West Carleton Online. “When we started this in the spring of 2019 we had no idea what to expect. We are just so thrilled with the way it has worked out for us and how the season has gone so far. Owning the team is definitely an eye-opening experience. You really have no idea how much you depend on your volunteers, staff, friends and family to make something like this work especially when you’re playing as well. If it weren’t for all those people, it would be really hard to switch myself from pre-game operations to focusing and playing in the game.”
Moyes played senior A in Quebec during the 2018-2019 season but did not have the added work of team management as he does this year. He’s not just in charge of entertaining fans on the ice, but during intermissions, off the ice and all the other times too. The team has done its part, going 8-0 at home during the regular season.
Moyes says, while he wishes there were more of them, the fans that make it out to home games have been great.
“I still say we have the best fans in the league,” he said. “We have had the latest start times of any team in the league and to get those 50-ish people out every game has meant the world to us. Lucky for us and for our fans, especially those with families, all our playoff games will be starting an hour earlier (7:30 p.m.) which will make the games much easier for families to attend. We’re hoping we can bring home a championship in front of a couple hundred people with those earlier starts.”
It’s been rewarding.
“To be honest the season has gone off relatively smoothly for us,” Moyes said. “We wouldn’t really change much this year other then of course driving people into the rink with those earlier start times. There is a lot to look at over the summer with both the league and team to turn things into more of a long-term, financially viable situation, but as for this year we are very happy with how it’s going.”
This Friday (Jan. 24) is the Rivermen’s last home game of the regular season against the second-place team, the Cornwall Prowlers. Game time is 8:30 p.m. at the Thomas Cavanagh Sensplex in Kinburn. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for youth and kids 12 and under are free. If the team gets at least 100 paid fans, the Rivermen will raffle off two $50 Tim Hortons gift cards.
The Ward 5 famous Ian Moyes Sales Representative – Royal LePage Team Realty Chuck-a-Puck jackpot is at more than $400. The Rivermen also invite fans to join the team at the West Carleton Amateur Sports Club in Carp after the game to enjoy a post-regular season celebratory drink.