Although the Morrisburg Junior B Lions got off to a bad start last week in Brockville, when they gave up a 4-2 third period lead in what would turn out to be a 5-4 loss, things got better, a whole lot better as the week progressed.
Following on the heels of a home ice, 5-4 win against the visiting Athens Aeros, Friday night, coach Thom Racine got an unexpected call on Saturday morning, that he says, “was an early Christmas present.”
The call was from last year’s leading scorer, Michel Lefebvre who had been released from his Junior A commitment and was wondering if there was a spot available for his return to the Lions.
The necessary paper work was done, and Lefebvre was back in a Lions uniform in time to play a decisive role in the Lions 7-1 victory over the Wolves, in Akwesasne, on Sunday.
It all added up to two wins in three games for the Lions who now find themselves in fourth spot in the St. Lawrence Division, with eight points, three points up on the Wolves and four ahead of the Char-Lan Rebels.
Alexandria now leads the division with 22 points, the Winchester Hawks are in second spot with 21 and the Casselman Vikings hold third with 19.
Last Wednesday, the Lions travelled to Brockville bolstered by three midget affiliates.
“Half of the team was not there,” says Racine. “It’s very discouraging, but the kids who came up played well. The kids came into it nervous, but excited. They did well for themselves.”
Joining the Lions lineup were 15 year old, Jordan Smail, and 16 year olds, Tanner Hummel and Andrew Morris, all affiliates through the South Dundas Minor Hockey Association.
The Tikis were first on the scoreboard in Brockville on Wednesday night, when they beat Lions goaltender Mikael Dion late in the first period. At 17:41 Alex Ploof, from Zach Sequin and Ty Hodgson, got it back.
The Tikis edged ahead at 7:52 of the second period, but then the Lions took charge.
Michel Thurler scored on the Lions power play with help from Ty Hodgson, and Zach Sequin made it 3-2, with Ploof and Marc Antoine Kamel providing the assist.
Kamel put the Lions up 4-2 at 6:19 of the third assisted by Michel Thurler and Michael Keenan.
“We took two penalties midway into the third period, but we killed them and I thought we were going to be okay,” said Racine.
A costly Lions clearing mistake in their own end, set the Tikis up to cut the gap to 4-3.
Then in a span of just 14 seconds, the Tikis nabbed Dion for two counters, and the Lions were sent home licking their wounds from a 5-4 loss.
Friday night in Morrisburg, the Lions dropped quickly behind the Aeros, 3-0 in the first period.
“It was an eerie reminder of the tail end of last year,” says Racine. “We played like we didn’t belong on the ice with them in the first 10 minutes. It was the same old-same old.”
“But then it was as if they looked at each other on the bench and said enough.”
With 5:34 left on the clock in the first period, Alex Steingruber scored unassisted, to put some spark back into his teammate.
As it turned out it was more than just a spark, it was a fire as the Lions went to work in the second period. While Dion held the Aeros from the scoreboard, the Lions struck for four unanswered goals, two of them on their power play.
Alex Ploof kicked it off with help from Lance Hodgson and Kamel, and then Bzdyl scored on the power play from Ward and Steingruber.
Steingruber scored his second of the game on the power play at 15:03 of the frame and with just 51 seconds left, Kamel counted from Lance Hodgson and Ryan Dunbar, for a 5-3 Lions lead.
That was it for the Lions scoring while the Aeros got one more late in the third period, leaving the Lions with the 5-4 win.
“Ploof’s goal at the end of the first period was a big goal for us,” said Racine. “For Ploof to respond like that was great. He also scored in Brockville.”
The third period featured a melee after Ty Hodgson hit the Aeros captain. “Four guys attacked Ty, and the other kids on the ice weren’t ready for it. They showed us what happens when someone hits their captain. After the fighting, we got six minutes in penalties. We killed them off and actually scored a shot-handed goal which was disallowed when their goalie kicked the net off.”
“By that point, I think we deserved to win the game, and this time, the hockey gods were with us.”
The Lions weekend kept getting better with the Saturday morning phone call from Lefebvre.
“Michele had gone off to play Junior A hockey, and we wished him well, but he left a big offensive hole in our lineup,” says Racine. “So we got the paper work done Saturday, and he hit the ice on Sunday against Akwesasne. He scored two goals and added an assist. Having Michel back creates so many more opportunities for us that we have been missing.”
“He is such a dynamic player, and that is what we needed. We are still a few pieces away from where we want to be, but this is a good step.”
Sunday’s game at Akwesasne was a must win for the Lions. “They stole two point from us in Morrisburg, last Friday night, and we had to get the points back. We were dominate the whole night, Mikael was stellar in goal.”
The Lions quickly went to task, building a 4-1 lead in the first period. After a scoreless second period, the Lions added three unanswered third period goals for the 7-1 win.
Sylvester Bzdyl and Michel Lefebvre led the Lions scoring with two goals each and Michael Poapst, Marc Antoine Kamel and Michel Thurler added singles.
Drew Veenstra, Alex Ploof, Bzdyl and Michael Paquette helped out on two goals each and singles assists were provided by Ryan Dunbar, Poapst, Lefebvre and Steingruber.
The Lions have just one game this weekend when they host the Casselman Vikings, Friday night, October 28 at 8:30 p.m.