For what coach Thom Racine referred to as a must-win game, the Morrisburg Junior B Lions got off on the right foot here Friday night with a 5-2 win over the Char-Lan Rebels. But it was all down hill all the way, after that.
Unable to rub the sleep from their eyes Saturday morning, they gave up a 6-3 loss to the Rideau Division’s fourth place South Grenville Rangers at the Rideau-St. Lawrence showcase event in Winchester.
Then Sunday night on Cornwall Island, they followed it up with a 7-5 loss to the St. Lawrence Division’s last place Akwesasne Wolves.
Racine admitted everyone was pumped for the must-win against the Rebels and didn’t save anything for the challenges against the Rangers and the Wolves.
As for Saturday’s game, both the Rangers and the Lions had games Friday night and it was tough for both to play first thing Saturday morning. He said simply, “they showed up and we didn’t. I could live with the South Grenville loss. They responded better than us.”
But he says the Akwesasne loss was tough and could eventually come back to haunt the Lions as they make their bid to catch the Char-Lan Rebels for the fourth and final St. Lawrence Division playoff spot.
“Akwesasne is playing for their pride right now. I told the guys if you don’t get ready to play them, they will beat you.”
“We have two games left against Char-Lan and one against Akwesasne, so there could be our season. The boys knew it. It was the quietest in our dress room that it’s been all year. ”
Although the Lions enjoyed the rare treat of a full squad for most of the weekend, Racine said it hurt when the two Veenstras, Clarke and Drew, were unable to play against Akwesasne as they had to return to Ottawa in preparation for their return to school on Monday morning.
On a brighter note, the Lions plugged a hole on their defence with the signing of Joel Marleau, who has been with the Cornwall Colts.
The Akwesasne win pulled the Wolves to within eight points of the Lions who trail the fourth place Rebels by one point. With the chance that the Wolves could lay claim to a chunk of fourth place, Racine says, that any hopes the Lions might have had to deal with the Wolves for players by this past Tuesday’s January 10 deadline pretty much went out the door.
He said Monday, that it was unlikely the Lions would be make any other pre-deadline changes.
Friday night in Morrisburg, the Lions and the Rebels played to a 1-1 first period draw. At the end of the second period they were still even, at 2-2.
It was three unanswered Lions goals in the third that did the talking and cemented the 5-2 win.
Michel Lefebvre kicked it off on the Lions power play at 9:34, with help from Sylvester Bzdyl and Drew Veenstra.
Marc Antoine Kamel (from Brayden Girard) made it 4-2 at 11:29, and Lance Hodgson pushed it to 5-2 at 14:38 with Ryan Dunbar and Zach Sequin providing the assists.
Alex Steingruber (from Lefebvre and Michael Keenan) scored for the Lions in the first period, and Chris Rutley got goal number two in the second period, with Clarke and Drew Veenstra assisting.
Lions goaltender, Mikael Dion, gave up the Rebels’ goals to Grant MacDougal in the first period and Lawson MacDonald in the second.
Goaltender Ryan Cooper handled Saturday’s action as the Lions and Rangers played to a 2-2 draw in the first period.
The Rangers went up 3-2 at 6:50 of the second period, but the Lions kept it even with a Ryan Ward power play goal (from Rutley and Keenan)at 8:21.
It was a short-handed goal, two in fact, that made the difference as the Rangers charged ahead with three unanswered counters, all scored in the second period, for the 6-3 win.
Michael Poapst (from Brayden Girard and Keenan) and Keenan (from Steingruber and Michaels Paquette) scored the Lions first period goals.
Sunday night against the Wolves, the Lions led after 20 minutes of play on a Michael Poapst power play goal assisted by Paquette and Ward.
Lefebvre (from Steingruber and Bzdyl) put them up 2-0 early in the second period.
Although Amo Connor cut their advantage to 2-1, a mere 35 seconds later, the Lions hung in with a Lance Hodgson goal assisted by Kamel and Girard.
A Wolves power-play goal at 15:12 again sliced into the Lions lead, and 23 seconds later they tied it 3-3.
The Hodgson then stepped in to again put the Lions up, Ty Hodgson popping the puck into the net with a Lance Hodgson assist.
Then it was back in the Wolves court as they used the final three minutes of the frame to push the Wolves ahead 5-4.
It was also at the end of the period, that the Lions lost the services of goaltender Mikael Dion.
“Mikael drew a match penalty. They (the Wolves) got under his skin and unfortunately, he lost his cool and reacted poorly. So we went into the third period, behind 5-4, with four minutes of penalties to kill and Ryan Cooper in net. But we tied the game with a short handed goal thanks to Ryan Ward working extra hard.”
The goal came less than two minutes in when Ward set up Sylvester Bzdyl.
But that was it. Matthew Morin, on a break away, beat Cooper at 11:10 of the third for a 6-5 lead and Keith Sloan made it 7-5 with 3:51 left on the clock.
Coming up this weekend, the Lions are at home for two games.
Friday night they host the St. Lawrence Division’s second place Casselman Vikings at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, the first place Winchester Hawks will be in town for a 2:30 p.m. start.
“It will be a tough weekend. We will be playing without Mikael, as he will probably get three games from the suspension,” says Racine. “But I have total confidence in Ryan. He came in, in relief Sunday night and played well.”
With the Vikings trailing the Hawks by just two points in the division standings, both will be playing hard for wins.