Lions shut out from finals

Team effort on defence – South Dundas Lions goalie Sam Waytowich (center) defends against Char-Lan Rebels forward Mathieu Giroux while Lions defenceman Bryce Bradford (left, #18), and assistant captain Joey Hannaford (center-left) attempt to block. The Rebels came back from a 1-0 deficit in the series to earn a spot in the Major-Midget B Rep championship with three wins-in-a-row. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

Char-Lan claims series win three games to one.

WILLIAMSTOWN – The South Dundas Lions were eliminated from the playoffs in Williamstown March 22nd, losing their third straight game to the Char-Lan Rebels in the Major-Midget B Rep semi-final. This was a day after losing game three of the series in Morrisburg. The Lions are the defending champions in the league.

The March 21st home game started off with a scoreless first period, which had some drama. An early goal by the Lions was called back due to the Char-Lan net being knocked loose from its moorings. With two seconds remaining in the period, Char-Lan picked up a double minor penalty, allowing the Lions to start the second period on a power play.

A minute into the second period, the Rebels picked up another penalty, giving the Lions a full two minutes of five-on-three hockey. Less than a minute later, Travis McInnis scored on a rebound from Ben Fingler, giving the Lions a 1-0 lead.

The Lions held the lead until half way through the second period when the Rebels got back-to-back goals past Lions starting goalie Sam Waytowich. The Rebels’ goals (Kurt Alexander, Alexi Paquette) were scored less than 30 seconds apart.

South Dundas attempted a come back in the third period. As the clock wound down, the team pulled their goalie for the extra player. With 49 seconds remaining in the game, Paquette went down ice and scored on the empty net, sealing the Lions fate. Rebels defeat the Lions 3-1.

The embattled Lions team went into game four with three players out due to suspension. Head coach Jamie Smith told The Leader after game three that he would call up affiliated players to fill the roster holes. Owen Goulet, Jaymen Heuff, Kendrew Byers and Owen Fetterly suited up for the Lions for the must-win March 22nd game.

Both teams were scoreless in the first period. The Lions could not break through the Rebels defence, even during three power play opportunities in the period.

Late in the second period, Giroux scored off a rebound from Seamus Thompson, past Mason McLeod in net. Rebels took a 1-0 lead. Early in the third period, Ethan MacDonald made it 2-0 for the Rebels on a play up the wing with Harrison Fraser and Aidan Leroux. The Rebels extended their lead to 2-0.

South Dundas fought hard in the third period to try to put one past Kamden Sabourin in the Rebels’ net, but they could not complete. Char-Lan shut out South Dundas 2-0, taking the first-to-five point series with three straight wins.

“Mason stood on his head, giving us a good chance to win,” said Smith after game four. “This was Mason’s last game in minor hockey and he went out on top playing spectacular!”
Smith attributed part of the reason for the series loss on being short players.

“We were short four regular players, which made a difference,” said Smith. “Char-Lan also had two great goalies. We put the shots right to them both and they as well stood on their heads.”

This season, the league adopted a new format with four extra regular season games, and only the top four teams in each level played in the playoffs. For much of the season, five teams locked in battle for the top spots.

“I really like the new format,” said Smith. “This makes teams play harder and every game means something.”

Smith explained that the only change he would suggest is changing to the top six teams, if a division has more than 10 or 12 teams in it. This season, nine of 14 levels had 10 or more teams.
Smith added that the parity of the top four teams was good to see.

“All four teams had speed, goaltending and for the most part, discipline,” said Smith. “There were only three points separating first to fourth place. The talent level was very close.”

The March 22nd game was the final minor hockey game not just for McLeod, but eight other players. Departing is team captain Jonah Bennis and assistant captains Adam Lapier, Justin Shay and Curtis Barkley. Also departing are Lucas Bennis, Oakley Beavers, Bryce Bradford and Travis McInnis.

“Although I’m upset to see the season end the way it did, this was a great bunch of young men that I had the opportunity to coach once again,” said Smith “I know the other team officials feel the same way.”

Despite the semi-final series loss, the team had a lot of accomplishments. This is the second season in a row the South Dundas team won the regular season, finishing at the top of league standings. The team was the defending champion this year, after defeating the Brockville Braves in March 2017.

“I really hope this team stays in South Dundas for another season since we’ve had success but that’s out of my hands,” said Smith.  “I will be pushing to keep the team here. I hope that South Dundas gets the opportunity to try and go for three-in-a-row.”

The South Dundas and North Dundas minor hockey organizations share operation of some of the ‘rep’ level teams, depending on the season. In the 2016-17 South Dundas and North Dundas each had Major-Midget B Rep teams. For the 2017-18 season, the two organizations cooperated with the team operating under the Lions.

A highlight for Smith this season was coaching with an “old rival”, Scott Barkley.

“Scotty and I played against each other through a lot of our minor hockey playing days. We’ve grown up to coach against each other and now this year we were partners,” said Smith. “Lots of ideas and a lot of laughs. We worked well together. Thanks Scotty.”

The Rebels move on to the championship against the Brockville Braves. They defeated the South Grenville Rangers in three games.