Bolstered by the return of two former scoring heavy weights, Michele Lefebvre and Chris Rutley, the Morrisburg Junior B Lions gave the Winchester Hawks a run for their money here Friday night.
Still hurting from an 11-2 loss to the Hawks on their home ice on November 4, the Lions, according to coach Thom Racine, “retooled and came back to play a solid game.”
The Lions kept pace throughout Friday night’s game against the division leading Hawks only to give up a 6-5 loss on a Hawks’ power-play goal with just 54 seconds left on the clock.
Coming through solid for the Lions, once again, was Alex Steingruber who put together an outstanding three goal performance.
Steingruber’s first goal was scored on the Lions’ power play (assisted by Chris Rutley), and the second was assisted by Ryan Ward and Clarke Veenstra. The third he scored, unassisted, to tie the game 5-5, at 14:43 of the third period while the Lions were short-handed.
“We battled them hard,” said Racine. “Then we took a horrible slashing penalty in the neutral zone (with 2:20 left in the third period and the score tied 5-5) and that cost us.”
“Steingruber had a great game. We have the offense now (with the addition of Rutley and Lefebvre). Now we have to start winning games.”
It is the second time this year that Lefebvre has signed with the Lions, but this time with the December 1 card deadline here, he understands the Lions can’t afford to waste a card.
The card deadline means that all teams must go down to 25 cards (signed or unsigned) and that is it for the rest of the season.
Lefebvre was the Lions’ Rookie of the Year last season and second in the Lions’ scoring. He also finished in the St. Lawrence Division’s top 10 scoring race.
“He’s a dynamic player and he is happy to be back,” says Racine.
Chris Rutley started his junior hockey with the Lions. In the 2009/10 season he was the team’s top scorer and finished eighth overall in the St. Lawrence Division’s scoring race. That year he was named the Lions best forward and picked up team silverware for top scorer and most assists.
The following season he was off to college in Kingston and with the travel situation, the Lions traded him to the Westport Rideaus.
His return to the Lions this past weekend was the result of trades involving the Rideaus, the Lions Char-Lan, Rutley and former Lions’ goaltender Erik Plummadore who ended up in Char-Lan.
Rutley is in his final season of junior age and next year will be an overage player.
“They (Rutley and Lefebvre) are both very dynamic players and they make us better,” says Racine. They make our kids better. In Winchester, we never led the game, but we were never really out of it either. With seconds to go, Steingruber had a wide open net. He shot and the puck hit something that deflected it away. We were that close to the tie.”
Dylan Chessell scored the lone first period goal for a 1-0 Hawks lead.
Steingruber tied it at 12:51 of the second period, but a pair of quick counters from Josh Stubbings (14:18 and 14:30) gave the Hawks a two-goal edge.
The Lions, however, weren’t ready to roll-over, and before the period ended they had tied it on goals from Clarke Veenstra (assisted by Chris Rutley) and Steingruber (from Ward and Veenstra).
In the third, the Hawks again went up by two (Brock Burge at 3:42 and Steven Johnston at 4:41) to again force the Lions to recharge.
That they did with a power play marker from Lefebvre (assisted by Michael Paquette at 6:02) and Steingruber’s unassisted, short-handed counter which tied it 5-5.
Vincent Bauline-Charland scored on the Hawks power-play at 19:06 for the 6-5 win.
The Lions were scheduled to play the South Grenville Rangers at the Cardinal and District Community Centre on Sunday, November 27.
The game did start but was cancelled due to ice conditions just seconds after the puck was dropped.
“We don’t know what happened. The boys said the ice was brutal behind the net during warm-up.”
According to Racine, safety became an issue in the area just seconds after the game started and as a result it was cancelled.
With just one game on the weekend and that the loss to the Hawks, the Lions now find themselves trailing the CharLan Rebels in the St. Lawrence Division standing by four points.
The Rebels put together a pair of weekend wins over Alexandria 5-2 and Akwesasne 5-4.
Coming up the Lions are in Casselman Thursday night. They host the St. Lawrence Division’s third place Alexandria Glens at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.