After losing game four to Braves, Lions bounce back to win it all.
MORRISBURG – It took game five to do it, but the South Dundas Lions are the Major-Midget ‘B’ Rep champions. The team polished off the Braves with a resounding 5-2 win on March 29th in Brockville. The series was forced back to Brockville after the Braves won game four in Morrisburg March 28th 6-4.
The Lions leapt on to the scoreboard first in game four, with Ewin Baril setting up Cal Bilmer. Six minutes into the first period, Lions took a 1-0 lead. The Braves surged ahead late in the period with Cameron Cosgrove beating Lions goalie Christian Francis for two goals, the first with 4:36 left, the second two minutes later. Braves led 2-1 for 30 seconds before Griffin Patterson evened the game at two-apiece. Wade Hart had the assist.
Lucas Bennis set up Patterson for his second of the night, less than a minute later as the first period ended with the Lions leading the Braves 3-2.
The Lions carried that lead until halfway through the second period when Ben DeJong tied the game for the Braves on a power play that resulted from a hooking penalty against Lions forward Oakley Beavers. The game remained deadlocked 3-3 for the balance of the period.
The Braves broke the logjam with 12:34 left in the third with Cosgrove finishing his hat trick.
Five minutes later, Lions captain Randy Keller set up Patterson for what looked like his third goal of the game. Braves goalie Josh Kruis blocked Patterson’s shot but came too far out of the net. Patterson caught the rebound and sent it to Jonah Bennis, who tipped the puck into the net, tying the game back at four.
Lucas Bennis was sent to the penalty box for a double-minor penalty, setting up a power play goal by Dejong, giving the Braves the go-ahead goal. Leyton Basiren scored one more for safety with 3:29 left in the game. The Braves hold on for the win, sending the series back to Brockville for a tie-breaking game five the next night.
“Heading back to Brockville for game five wasn’t ideal,” head coach Jamie Smith told The Leader. “We wanted to win it at home, for the local fans, who have been so supportive all year.”
Smith continued that the team was confident going into the final game, because they had not lost two games in a row all year.
The final battle for the league championship started off scoreless in the first period. The Lions went zero-for-two on the power play in the period, while successfully killing a double-minor penalty drawn late in the period.
Jean-Guy Kronstal put the Lions on the scoreboard early in the second period, set up by Patterson and Baril. Lions led 1-0. The Braves countered seconds later with Dylan Butcher beating Francis in the Lions net, the game was tied at one.
With 19 seconds left in the period, Bryce Bradford set up Bilmer to break the tie, and the Lions led 2-1. A penalty against Keller at the end of the second period would see the Lions start the third period at a disadvantage.
Braves forward Josh May scored on the resulting power play in the first minute of the third period to tie the game 2-2.
Patterson scored halfway through the third period on a power play, putting the Lions ahead by one. Keller scored his first of the night 30 seconds later giving the Lions a 4-2 lead over the Braves.
In the winner-take-all game, the pressure continued to mount with Brockville drawing penalty after penalty. The Braves drew eight penalties in the later half of the third period including three players bounced from the game, two for unsportsmanlike conduct and one for gross misconduct.
Lions captain Randy Keller scored his final goal in his midget hockey career, and the final goal of the game, on a power play with 4:16 left in the third period. Griffin Patterson assisted the goal. The Lions beat the Braves 5-2 to win the Major-Midget title.
The Major-Midget team finished as the top team in the league in the regular season with a record of 19 wins, 2 losses and 3 ties.
Smith credited the teams’ success to a positive attitude and a desire to win.
“Right from the start, they had the desire and the drive to win,” said Smith. “They were a close knit bunch and there was great player support and team camaraderie.”
Smith added that the coaching staff worked well together, “which I believe filters down to the players.”
Heading into game five with a tied series, Smith explained that the team knew they had to play a disciplined game.
“We had to keep the penalties to a minimum, as Brockville had a good power play. Production wasn’t an issue, we knew we could score goals.”
Smith said the team worked on their defensive play and made minor changes for the championship game.
“That seemed to make a big difference. Beyond that, the boys’ commitment and desire to win, were also key factors.”
One of the highlights of the season for Smith was that all of the players on the team were from South Dundas.
“At the start of the season, we weren’t sure if we would have the numbers or be able to compete at the Rep level,” Smith said. “But we could score, we had consistent defense and strong goaltending. Not only did these boys compete, but they dominated for most of the season.”
“Winning the championship was awesome and a great way to end the ‘Perfect Season’!”