WEST CARLETON – While the West Carleton Rivermen came one game short of the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League (EOSHL) championship, they still won plenty of league awards to fill their trophy case with.
The Rivermen’s season ended in game five of the EOSHL five-game championship series March 6 when the team lost a back-and-forth game 7-5 to the Cornwall Prowlers. With the way the world has changed in that time, the game seems like an eon ago.
Despite the loss in the last game of the season, the Rivermen’s first year can only be described as a huge success on and off the ice. The team led the regular season wire-to-wire and played great hockey throughout the playoffs battling the league champions tooth and nail in a showcase of EOSHL hockey in the championship series. The fans grew each and every game throughout the playoffs.
That success was evident as the EOSHL released the 2019-2020 EOSHL Award winners yesterday (March 30) and the Rivermen took home a handful of trophies.
“The EOSHL organizations submitted their votes over the weekend for the 2019-2020 Awards,” the league released in a statement. “Troy Murray who is an EOSHL board member had the emails sent to him to do the honors of calculating the votes in a confidential manner. The league would like to say congrats to all the winners for the first ever EOSHL season.”
The Rivermen’s Zack Rheaume was named the EOSHL Top Defenceman. In 21 games Rheaume had 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points leading all EOSHL defencemen.
Rheaume also led all defencemen in the playoffs with three goals and four assists in seven games.
Off the ice, the West Carleton Rivermen was named the EOSHL’s Top Management and Mike Byrne was named co-winner of the EOSHL Coach of the Year along with the Prowler’s Mitch Gagne, who is also the league president.
The Prowler’s Marc Andre Labelle was named EOSHL League MVP.
The Rivermen gave out team awards at the end of March.
Forward Alex Hulford was named team Most Valuable Player. In 25 games Hulford scored 29 goals and 27 assists.
“From start to finish, Alex was a difference maker for this team,” Byrne, who coaches and is the general manager of the Rivermen, said. “During the first ice time in franchise history, which was a two-hour scrimmage in August, Alex was credited with 11 points. Moving forward, he never really slowed down. Incredibly, Alex had points in 24 of 25 games, and had a multi-point game in 16 of those. One of the other things that really sticks out to me is that Alex was one of three Rivermen to dress in all 25 games. Without Alex, this team would not have been nearly as successful.”
Former Ottawa 67’s player Brett Gustavsen, who joined the Rivermen just pass the halfway mark of the regular season, was named the team’s Playoff MVP. During the playoffs Gustavsen had seven goals and eight assists in six games.
“I’ve had a couple awards that made for very tough decisions, but this one was easy,” Byrne said. “Beginning with his OT winner in Game One against Maxville, through until his three-goal and two-assist performance against Cornwall in game five, Brett had an incredible playoff performance. On a nightly basis, Brett was one of the best players on the ice and he was just as good defensively as he was offensively.”
The Rivermen gave the Versatility Award to forward Joe Greg Harding. Harding played only four games for the team getting on the scoresheet once with an assist. But he also coached a game and was a paid fan at six home games.
““No player on the team, or even in the league, could put up stats this versatile,” Byrne said. “Congrats on a great season, Joe, and thank you for your support.”
Going against the league, the Rivermen gave their Top Defenceman award to Ryan Duhaime. He scored one goal and added seven assists in 25 games.
“This was the hardest award for me to choose,” Byrne said. “We had a bunch of guys on defence who had absolutely incredible seasons. But overall, I wanted this award to go to someone who was excellent in our zone, and I think everyone would agree that Ryan fits that description. Ryan was always the first one out the door for key defensive situations.”
Ryley Egan was named the Top Forward. Egan scored 24 goals and added 27 assists in 24 games.
“Every time he was on the ice, he was a threat to make something happen,” Byrne said. “Nothing sticks out more to me than our 7-5 Win in Deseronto when he had our first five goals. I truly believe that Ryley and his Centre Alex Hulford were one of, if not the best one-two forward tandem in the league.”
EOSHL news: Maxville has new ownership, league expands for 2020-2021
Early last week the Maxville Millionaires were close to folding when the EOSHL announced the team still had unpaid fees weeks after the end of the inaugural season.
Last Thursday (March 26) EOSHL President Mitch Gagne said there’s a strong likelihood the Millionaires would return under new ownership.
“The EOSHL would like to announce some positive news today to all our current fans and new fans,” Gagne said. “The Maxville Millionaires roster was purchased on Friday March 27 by Mr. Matt Thompson and Mr. Maxime Boucher. The two gentlemen came forward after the Millionaires forfeited the team over to the EOSHL on March 23 due to unpaid fees. The EOSHL is excited to have the team stay in Maxville for the upcoming season. The new owners have changed the name to the Maxville Mustangs.”
EOSHL owners, including Rivermen owner Adrian Moyes, held a meeting March 23 to talk league expansion.
Following the meeting, the league announced two new teams will play in the EOSHL next season.
“Two organizations showed the requirement of ice time available in their areas to ice a team in the EOSHL for the upcoming season,” Gagne said yesterday (March 30). “The EOSHL have added the North Frontenac Phantoms which will play out of the North Frontenac Community Arena in Godfrey, ON. The Phantoms are owned and operated by Colton Distefano and his wife Sydony. The EOSHL will also welcome a second team to the league, the Glengarry Pipers. The Pipers owned by Ryan McLeod and general manager Jamie Lavigne will play their home games at the Glengarry Sports Palace in Alexandria, ON.”
The league is excited to grow and hopes to add two more teams before the beginning of year two if possible.
“The EOSHL adding these two organizations and keeping a team in Maxville is exciting news for the league,” Gagne said. “The EOSHL is not done adding teams. We have a handful of other areas interested and we will be making final decisions by June 1. The EOSHL has a goal to climb to eight teams. Whether it happens this season or next, the number of eight teams would be the perfect fit creating two divisions of four and having a 20-game schedule as planned.”