Looking to the future of the team, as well as the interests of key players who have been major contributors over the past few years, the Morrisburg Junior B Lions management made some decisions prior to the January 10 deadline to benefit everyone involved.
“Most of our moves included our overage players, which provided the players with the opportunity to play in the playoffs in their last year of junior eligibility,” explained general manager Kevin Casselman.
Casselman was speaking of the release of goaltender Mikael Dion to the Winchester Hawks, the release of top scorer Chris Rutley to the Perth Blue Wings, Sylvester Bzdyl (second in team scoring) to the Akwesasne Wolves and Dylan Casselman to Brockville.
“Dylan Casselman’s move to Brockville was to put closure on the previous deal made in bringing in 18-year-old Nicholas Pilon, and it also provided Dylan with an opportunity to play in the playoffs with his brother Tanner in Brockville.”
In addition, Casselman explained that Michel Lefebvre went to the Char-Lan Rebels on December 22, in a deal that sees his playing rights returned to the Lions next year.
“Michel has played with us for three seasons and has only played in one playoff series. This opportunity not only brings back some tangibles for next season, but also enables him to gain some valuable experience in a playoff run…which he will bring back to our organization next year.”
Also moved was midget-aged Ty Hodgson who went back to the Upper Canada Cyclones AAA Major Midgets. “This will provide Ty with an opportunity to play in the AAA branch championships in Brockville in the spring. Ty is affiliated with us and can play in five games after the January 10th deadline. It was a great opportunity for him to play with his age group at a very high level.”
Also in a five game affiliation situation is Nicholas Pilon who was moved back to a Smiths Falls juvenile card to allow him more hockey after February 9.
Although the Lions were hanging in, in most of their pre-January 10 games, they weren’t able to put any marks in the win column and they were guaranteed not to make the St. Lawrence Division playoffs.
So with a good look at their situation, Casselman says “Why not move in a direction to provide some valuable in-game teaching and development of our future with a start towards next season.
“We have 19 affiliated midget aged players that we felt could benefit by playing in our last 10 games or so. While the decision to move the overage players was for them to play…it was equally important for our organization to move in a youthful direction.”
In making the changes, 16-year-old Grant Cooper was named team captain.
“Grant has demonstrated a remarkable leadership level, well beyond his age, game in game out, every practice and every shift,” says Casselman.
So basically, what we have done is to play out the season “with the young players, teaching them with patience, while providing valuable in-game experience. Combined with our affiliated players and our signed players, we have 36 players eligible to play, 18 of which are 17 years of age and younger.”
This past Friday night, the young Lions were at home to the St. Lawrence Division’s first place Casselman Vikings.
The Vikings struck early and struck hard for a 3-1 first period lead as they worked their way to a 9-3 victory.
Eric Evans with help from Taylor Eamon and Steven Savage counted for the Lions in the first period.
Early in the second, Dylan Dejong (from Zach Sequin and Alex Primeau), cut the Vikings lead to 3-2.
But then it was back in the Vikings court for six consecutive goals, (three more in the second).
Grant Cooper (from Peter Ketcheson and Dylan Dejong) finished it off for the Lions at 12:04 of the third period.
The Lions sat out five minor penalties, and the Vikings were nabbed for six.
Ryan Cooper was in the Lions net for the loss. He faced 60 Vikings shots, while the Lions managed just 28 against Vikings goaltender Philippe Quesnel.
Sunday, the Lions were on the road to Gananoque, where they lost to the Islanders, 9-0.
Islanders goaltender Drew Lawson stopped 24 Lions shots for his shutout while Ryan Cooper gave up the nine goals on 54 shots.
The Islanders led 4-0 after the first period and 6-0 after two. They scored one power-play goal in six opportunities.
Coming up this Friday, January 25, the Lions head to Winchester to take on the fourth place Hawks. Sunday, January 27 they host the Alexandria Glens. Game time is 2:30 p.m.
The Lions players and management are counting on the continued support of the hockey community as they work towards next year with this young squad.