As the Rapids’ 5th season in Grand Falls comes to a conclusion, time has come to analyze the 2022-2023 campaign and to look beyond the team’s final standings in the Eastlink North division.
It was a season of ups and downs as things started out to be very promising for a team that was seeking its first playoff appearance since its arrival in the Northwestern city. As the Rapids were sitting in fourth position of their division at one point, injuries and key departures played a major role in what can be considered a disappointing campaign to some, but a promising one for others.
Of course, our assessment of the team are based on what were the expectations at the start of the season and which direction we hope it will be heading for the upcoming seasons. If we make a list of things that went wrong along the way, some stick out most than others: inconsistency to play a full 60 minutes, too many shots on goal allowed and a home record that could have been better. However, we must point out the positives since there are quite a few.
In fact, it is a major accomplishment, not only from the coaching staff but from the players themselves, to finish the season as the least penalized team in the league compared to the most penalized squad one season before. It takes a full commitment to get through that important transformation as a team that was accustomed to retaliation penalties and reacting too much on emotion. Instead, the Rapids demonstrated great discipline and instead of seeing the opponent score while they were in the box, it was the other way around this season as the power play unit was a major strength. The team scored a total of 55 PP goals and an efficiency rate of 28.6% which is ranked third in the MHL this season.
Also, for the very first time since their arrival in Grand Falls, the Rapids reached the 20-win plateau, finishing the season with 21 victories and a 5th place finish. The great parity that was present this season in the Eastlink North division did not help the fact that the Rapids were excluded from the fourth and final playoff spot.
Of course, some players stood out as true leaders, guiding their team from day one of training camp. Some had a very productive season as three players (Yannic Bastarache, Ben Diamond and Dominic LeBlanc) reached the 20-goal plateau while finishing among the league leaders in power play goals, shorthanded goals and winning tallies.
The goaltending situation was quite uncertain at the start of the season, but it all ended on a positive note despite the loss of Joshua Fleming who was having a remarkable first half of the season between the pipes. As for the young defensive unit, we must say that it was a learning experience and since the majority of the defensemen will be coming back next season, there is lots to look up too. Of course, Evan Bellamy had a breakout season at the blue line, as well as on the offensive front, showing his true value to the team despite being a 2005-born player.
What lies ahead for this team will depend on a few key factors. Losing four top scorers will be difficult, but there is still some offensive talent left up front. Goaltenders Frédéric Plourde and Charles-Antoine Julien will also be leaving which means that the number one spot will be up for grabs come training camp.
It should be interesting to watch how the team will prepare for the upcoming season.
Following are the team’s final stats from the 2022-2023 season:
*Record: 21-29-2 for 44 points; 5th in the Eastlink North standings
*Home record: 10-15-1 for 21 points
*Away record: 11-14-1 for 23 points
*Goals scored: 178 (10th)
*Goals allowed: 220 (tied for 4th)
*Goal differential: -29
*Power play goals: 55 (3rd)
*Shorthanded goals: 7 (tied for 3rd)
*Penalty minutes: 807 (least penalized team)
*Penalty kill: 75.5% (tied for 7th)
Following are the team leaders in individual stats:
*Points: Yannic Bastarache (79)
*Goals: Ben Diamond (34)
*Assists: Yannic Bastarache (51)
*Power play points: Yannic Bastarache (37)
*Power play goals: Ben Diamond (17)
*Power play assists: Yannic Bastarache (24)
*Shorthanded goals: Ben Diamond (3)
*Winning goals: Yannic Bastarache (4)
Frédéric Plourde (1969 minutes, goals against average of 3.93; 13 wins)
Charles-Antoine Julien (661 minutes, goals against average of 5.72; 2 wins)
Joshua Fleming (484 minutes, goals against average of 2.61; 6 wins)
Nathan Michaud (6 minutes, goals against average of 0.00)