The Ravenwood Raptors were sharp from start to finish Monday night in claiming a 3-1 victory over Montgomery Bell Academy to win the Greater Nashville Area Scholastic Hockey League (GNASH) Predators Cup.
Ravenwood Head Coach, and former Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Keczmer talked after the contest on the personal significance of the victory.
“It is dear to my heart because it’s the last time I will ever be involved coaching my son,” Keczmer said of his son, Christian. “To see him go out with a victory is pretty special for me,”
For those on the ice, Ravenwood senior forward Ryan Barrett said the win against MBA was gratifying due to past meetings.
“We lost to these guys last year in the semifinals, so we really wanted to come back and beat these guys,” Barrett said. “They also beat us in the regular season, so we really wanted to come out and win this game. I think it showed out there; we really played hard against them, the hardest I think we have played all year.”
While the win carried various significances for Ravenwood coaches and players, it also marked the first time all of the players in the GNASH League were born after the Predators franchise was granted in June of 1997.
Keczmer, who skated for the Preds during their first two NHL seasons, is one of many that is pleased to see hockey’s growth in Middle Tennessee.
“It has expanded expeditiously since I got here in 1999, and this is proof,” Keczmer said. “You have 16 to 20 high school hockey programs, and when I got here, you really hadn’t established a high school program. The Preds definitely put their mark on the growth of hockey amateur wise.”
For Barrett, hockey in Nashville is all that he has ever known and facilities such as the Ford Ice Center in Antioch contribute to a positive experience.
“I started playing after I went to my first Preds game, so it has really influenced me,” Barrett said. “To play at Ford Ice Center, it’s such a great facility. The fans could line up, it was loud, it was really professional and it was a lot of fun.”
For the players who have only ever known the Predators to be a part of the Music City, the championship is just another justification of hockey in the South. As for the future of the game in Nashville, Barrett believes the upward trajectory will only continue from here.
“There’s all kind of influences around Nashville,” Barrett said. “This is the most fans we’ve ever gotten, everybody seems interested in the sport now and it’s really going to help it out for the future.”