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Rapids roll into playoffs

February 9th,2024 | Sports

It’s only their first season in the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League, but the Paugan Falls Rapids have pulled off a major achievement: These beloved underdogs are heading to the playoffs!

After beating the Glengarry Pipers 4-2 in a must-win game at home on Feb. 3, the Rapids will meet the Bytown Royals for the first round of playoffs on Feb. 17.  

The fans came out in droves to cheer their team on to victory. A record 628 people crowded onto the benches during the game, creating an atmosphere that Rapids captain Ryan Peck called “electrifying.” 

“The attendance was just crazy,” Peck said. “Every time we scored, it got so loud in the building, it was awesome.”  

From her seat on one of the cold, cement steps (because there was no room left on any of the benches), this reporter can attest: The crowd was absolutely deafening every time the puck hit the back of the Pipers’ net. 

The first four goals of the game all belonged to the Rapids. Luke Peck, assisted by Ryan and John Mahoney, put their team on the board less than four minutes into the first period. The second period saw three more goals scored by Carter Peck, Jeremy Giroux-Maisonneuve and Kodiak Whiteduck. 

The Pipers responded with a goal in the second and third periods, but the Rapids managed to defend their lead, eliminating the Pipers from a chance at making the playoffs. 

With so much at stake, the rivalry was fierce. Refs handed out a whopping 27 penalties during the game – 14 to the Pipers and 13 to the Rapids. 

“Glengarry is one of the most penalized teams in our conference, so I think it was always going to be an above-average game for penalties,” Ryan Peck noted. 

Both Ryan and his father Randy, the team’s head coach, told the Low Down that they were thrilled to be moving on to the playoffs. 

“We were at a disadvantage for sure coming in as a new team, so this is a big one,” Ryan said. 

“We got off to a bit of a rough start,” Randy admitted, “but we’ve been playing really good hockey recently, and we were able to make our push, and we got it done.” 

Plus, the team had their fans there to cheer when it happened: The crowd gave them a roaring standing ovation at the game’s finish while the Rapids raised their sticks in salute, thanking the crowd for showing up in the hundreds every game.   

Hockey’s heritage honoured

 The evening of Feb. 3 was about looking ahead to a promising future as well as honouring the past. As the Rapids set their sights on clinching their playoff spot, the community surrounding them celebrated Heritage Night, an homage to the players and teams of the former outdoor senior men’s league, which ran in the Hills from 1949 until well into the 90s. 

Scores of former players and their families came out to the Gatineau Valley Arena in Low for a pre-game meet-and-greet and to take in a special exhibit that was jam-packed with historical artifacts: photos, video, press clippings, trophies, equipment and a sea of colourful jerseys from several of the leagues’ small-town teams, including: Venosta, Danford Lake, Kazabazua, Wakefield and Low. 

“The icing on the cake,” according to Rapids head coach Randy Peck, was the surprising return of the long-lost Hopkins Cup. Originally donated by Kaz grist-mill owner John Hopkins in 1949, the Hopkins Cup was awarded to the champions of the Central Gatineau Hockey League every year until it mysteriously disappeared sometime in the 1990s following a win by the Danford Lakers. 

Randy said he walked out his door on the morning of Feb. 3 to find the cup, encased in a specially made box, with a note requesting that it be put on display at the exhibit for fans and former players to enjoy. He doesn’t know who left it there or where it’s been all these years. 

“It was just a perfect evening,” Randy told the Low Down about Heritage Night. “We were really pleased with the hockey exhibit…we were happy with the number of people who came out to see it including ex-players, fans, parents. We had some players who used to be in the league way back who brought their grandkids with them to show them the history of it, which was special for everyone.”

“So many fans came in wearing what might have been their dad’s old jersey or their grandfather’s,” he added. “I just loved the buzz in the place.” 

Randy was also pleased to be able to present his former coach, Hills sports’ legend Al Mahoney, with a plaque inducting him into the Gatineau Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Mahoney, who performed the game’s puck drop for his grandson, Rapids defenceman John Mahoney, was surprised by the induction. 

“Al has been a huge part of the sporting community up here, so this was a long time coming,” Randy explained.  

The exhibit, including the Hopkins Cup, will remain on display until Feb. 10. It will be open to the public on Feb. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Feb. 10 from 4:30 p.m. until the end of the night. 

The Rapids will play their final league game of the season at home on Feb. 10, facing off against the Arnprior Rivermen. 

Their first playoff game will take place at the Bytown Royal’s arena on Feb. 17. Randy explained that the Rapids, being the lower ranked team, will have to win two games in a row in order to progress to the next round: if they lose the first game, they’re out altogether. If they win, the second game will take place on home ice. 

And if it does, they can be sure to have a whole community there to (loudly) cheer them on.

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