Raptors Soar to GNASH title
Ravenwood settles old score with victory over Centennial
By Darren Lowry
Despite the problems among the adults in three cities — Memphis, Knoxville and Nashville — the kids still played on.
On March 1, the Ravenwood Raptors ( 20-1-1) and Centennial Cougars ( 17-6-1) played in front of a packed house to determine a champion for GNASH (Greater Nashville Area Scholastic Hockey).
At first glance, it seemed like a classic David vs. Goliath matchup, with Ravenwood the prohibitive favorite and Centennial the underdog.
However, the game had a little bit of extra history behind it, as the Cougars were the only team to beat the Raptors during the regular season.
“That was all the motivation we needed,” captain Derek Kimbro said. “It makes you get you really fired up, gets you focused and keeps you from coming in overconfident.”
Centennial has also been a powerhouse in GNASH for quite some time, while Ravenwood was finishing just their third season.
In addition, Ravenwood’s starting goalie, Matt Wade, played for Centennial his freshman year.
However, it was Centennial that seemed to control the pace of most of the game, with both goalies (particularly Wade) making big stops at crucial times.
Both teams traded chances until late in the second period, when the Cougars took a high sticking penalty. Twenty-one seconds later, Raptors forward Taylor Smith stuffed a rebound past sprawled Centennial goalie Jes Standford to give Ravenwood the lead.
Despite the goal, Centennial fought on, finally getting a power play of their own 7:45 into the second period. Unfortunately for the Cougars, Ravenwood was able to kill off the power play, and with it the last hopes for Centennial.
Wade was the difference-maker in the game, according to Cougars head coach Brandon Wright.
“That’s a kid who had never played organized hockey until his freshman year, and he won us the hockey game tonight,” Wright said. “It was Matt’s game tonight. Everybody else played very well in front of him, but it was Matt’s game.”
Kimbro would add two goals in the final 30 seconds to push the final score to 3-0.
The Raptors made it to the GNASH finals by winning all three of their previous games.
The Cougars had a harder time. They lost their first match-up in the double-elimination series, and were forced to win five games in a row to qualify for the finals.
“We didn’t focus on Ravenwood right off,” said Centennial head coach Eddie Antee. “We had a few scores to settle along the way first. Our goal was the next game, because every game was going to be the last game if we lost.”
Even if Centennial had one the game against Ravenwood, the two teams would have still played the next night, because of the double-elimination rule.
The Raptors didn’t allow that to happen.
“We wanted to show them we were the top team in the league, and we came out and did it,” Wade said.
“I can’t say anything bad about Ravenwood,” Antee said. “They played a good game.”
Such a hard-fought and exciting game should have rightfully been played on GEC ice for a state championship.
Instead, the kids played for the GNASH championship at the Centennial Sportsplex, and the No. 1 seeding at the GNASH Scholastic Invitational.
There’s always next year.