Strong start for Junior Lions

The Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey season got underway in Kemptville on the weekend, and for the Morrisburg Lions, it wasn’t a bad start.
After losing their opening game in the second annual Fall Classic, 3-1 to the Ottawa West Golden Knights on Friday night, the Lions turned it around Saturday, for a 5-3 win over the Stittsville Royals.

In their opener against the Knights, the two were tied 1-1 after two periods, before the Knights capitalized on a bad Lions’ clearing attempt, to set them up for a late power-play goal to seal the game.

Alex Steingruber scored the lone Lions’ goal in the second period with the assists going to Ryan Ward and goaltender Mikael Dion, who was called upon to make 37 saves during the game.

“I was pleased with our effort against a very good Ottawa West team,” said Lions’ coach Thom Racine. “We showed if we move our feet and skate like we can, shift after shift, we can play with these good teams.”

“We made them earn the win, and we have to take something from that.”

On Saturday night, against the Stittsville Royals, the Lions got off to a slow start, but got out of the first period in a 1-1 tie.

It was a big goal for both the Lions and Drew Veenstra who collected his first Junior B goal after going the entire season without one last year. He was assisted by team captain Matt Ouimet.

Early in the second period, Ouimet put the Lions ahead, 2-1, on a pretty set up from Ty Hodgson on the power play.

Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t hold on and gave up two late period goals to trail 3-2 after 40 minutes.

A relentless forecheck to begin the third period saw Sylvester Bzdyl tie the game, 3-3, just over a minute in, from a Drew Veenstra rebound.
Brayden Girard then scored on a solo effort to push it to 4-3 at 2:44.

The fifth and final goal, at 7:47 of the third, came on a Clark Veenstra set up to Michel Thurler who rifled a wrist show low to Erik Miksik’s glove side.

Dion was in net for the Lions first win of the 2011/12 regular season.

“Clark Veenstra was huge all night long, as he frustrated the Royals defenders with punishing body checks,” said coach Racine.

As a result Veenstra was named the game star to join goaltender Dion who was the named the Lions’ game star in the loss to Ottawa West.
The Fall Classic was sponsored by the Ottawa Senators who provided 88 home game tickets for the MVPs on both teams of each of the 22 games played, as well as Senator ball caps.

Coach Racine says he was very happy with the weekend split.

“I looked at our division before the second game, and I knew we had to win to keep pace (everyone else that had played had earned a point their first games), and the kids really responded.”

“The win can be enjoyed, but we get the defending champs (Winchester) Sunday in our home opener and that will be another early season test.”

The Alexandria Glens and the Casselman Vikings both won their Fall Classic games for four points each. The Hawks posted a win and a tie for three points, and the Lions are next with two points. Akwesasne produced one tie and Char-Lan lost both games.

The Lions are at home this Sunday, September 25 to the Winchester Hawks at 2:30 p.m.

Their next action is on Friday night, September 30 when the Char-Lan Rebels come to town for an 8:30 p.m. game.

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