Morrisburg Junior B Lions coach Thom Racine sees the St. Lawrence Division as one that could develop into two tiers and to keep that from happening he says his Lions have to get tougher.
After a weekend that saw the Lions start strong with a 7-2 win over the Char-Lan Rebels on home ice Friday night, and then fall victim to the Glens in Alexandria, 7-1, Sunday, Racine says “I think we were a little intimidated by them (Glens). They are a big physical team, and we didn’t have the match for them.”
“We have to get tougher, and I have to find a way to motivate them on the physical side of things. They have to learn to play tough, and they have to have each other’s back. They talk about how the game has changed, but intimidation is still there.”
Friday night, the 7-2 win gave the Lions a good start to the weekend.
They scored their first goal, on the first shot of their first shift in the first 10 seconds of the match when Ryan Ward (from Clarke Veenstra) put the puck past Rebels goaltender Robbie Chapman.
“Scoring nine seconds into a game usually works well,” said Racine and work well it did.
Clarke Veenstra gave the Lions a two-goal lead at 9:02 of the frame with help from Alex Steingruber and Ward, and Ryan Dunbar made it 3-0 with help from Marc Antoine Kamel at 12:18.
The Rebels got one back from Quinlin MacDonell at 14:08 to cut the gap to 3-1.
In the second period “Michael Poapst (from Sylvester Bzdyl) got his first goal of the season to get the monkey off his back,” said Racine.
The 4-1 Lions lead carried well into the third period until Tyler Filion counted for the Rebels at 9:10.
“When they made it 4-2, that old nervousness started to come back,” said Racine recalling the number of times last year, the Lions collapsed to give up a lead and settle for a disappointing loss.
This time out however, the Lions held on, and an unassisted Brayden Girard goal at 15:58 ended the jitters and put them back on track.
“Brayden is a great skater, and he doesn’t score many goals. So when he goes in and scores a goal it is huge,” said Racine.
Seeing his first full game, was rookie goaltender Ryan Cooper. “Ryan played well,” said Racine. “He was promised that game as a start and he played well.”
Charged up by the Girard goal, the Lions finished it off with goals from Clarke Veenstra (from Steingruber) and Lance Hodgson (from Michael Paquette) for the 7-2 win, their second of the young season.
Then on Sunday, the Lions were on the road to Alexandria where they managed only one goal against the Glens from Lance Hodgson (Brayden Girard and Zach Seguin) early in the second period.
They held the Glens to a 1-0 first period lead, but fell behind 2-0, 2:38 into the second period. Hodgson’s goal at 3:15 kept it close at 2-1. Just over a minute later, the Glens upped it to 3-1, and they stretched it with a short-handed goal at 18:27 of the frame.
Three unanswered third period goals gave them the 7-1 win.
“We were hanging in,” says Racine. “We were 2-1 in the second period, then a mistake and before you know it you are down a couple of goals.”
“The three goals, in three minutes, in the third period put us away.”
Also hurting in the effort was a short bench. The Veenstras were unable to make the game, and Michel Thurler was sitting out his second game of a six game suspension.
Racine was relieved that Steingruber was in the lineup after he was injured the week before.
Racine is looking forward to playing at full strength, sooner rather than later.
“We are trying to be a skilled team with four lines, but we haven’t been able to ice that (full) team yet.”
Coming up this weekend, the Lions are in Winchester against the Hawks Friday night, October 7 for an 8:15 p.m. start. Sunday, October 9, they host the Alexandria Glens at 2:30 p.m.
The Casselman Vikings and the Glens are currently tied for the St. Lawrence Division top spot with 12 points each, both with six wins and one loss.
The Winchester Hawks have nine points on four wins, one loss and one tie, and the Lions have four points on a pair of wins.
Akwesasne has one tie and Char-Lan is still looking for their first point of the season.