MORRISBURG – Sunday marked the return of roaring crowds and winning junior hockey to the Morrisburg Arena. The Morrisburg Jr. C Lions stumped the South Grenville Rangers 3-1 to take game two of their first round, river-rivalry playoff series.
Lions’ Head Coach Lance Hodgson’s “Morrisburg Connection” of homegrown players put the Lions on the scoreboard near the midway mark of the first period. Forward Jonah Bennis (from Josh Broad and Wade Moak) found his way past Rangers’ netminder Ben Spicer. South Grenville countered late in the period when Noah Penney (from Nate Medaglia and Jordan Poulin) scored the equalizer leaving the game tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Seven minutes into the second period, another “Morrisburg Connection” goal by Bennis (from Dean Lapier and Josh Broad) regained the lead 2-1.
Forward Justice Brownlee added an insurance goal later in the third period (from Owen Mahoney and Malcolm Cooper) to make it 3-1 Lions for the win.
Hodgson said after the game that Bennis’ goals where just what the team needed to build more confidence in the playoff series.
“For him to come out and score those two goals, that’s big,” he said.
The coach praised the work of starting goalie Dawson Irving in Sunday’s game.
“Dawson was lights out,” Hodgson said. “After Saturday’s game, everyone understood we can’t go back into [South Grenville’s] rink down two games.”
No one on the current Lions’ roster was on the team the last time Morrisburg reached the playoffs. Facing off against South Grenville, a team with years of playoff experience is a challenge for the team.
“Playoff hockey is completely different than the regular season,” Hodgson said. “We are going into a rink with probably the best team in the league. They have experience. I’m bringing in a team that hasn’t played a playoff game.”
Playoff inexperience, starting the series on the road, and some penalty trouble contributed to the Lions 8-1 loss to the Rangers in game one of the series on February 19. In fact, four of the eight goals scored by South Grenville were on the power-play.
“We got ourselves into penalty trouble,” Hodgson explained. “In the third period, we played more five-on-five hockey, and it was a 1-1 game in that period.”
Owen Mahoney (from Ethan Mahoney and Moak) scored the Lions lone goal, on a Lions’ power-play, late in the third period.
Hodgson said he saw improvement in the team as game one continued, and that momentum helped in game two.
“When we play five-on-five hockey, we can keep up with other teams like South Grenville,” he said. “Now we gave ourselves another weekend.”
The coach attributed some of the success Sunday afternoon to the hometown crowd at the arena. More than 200 people were in the stands for the February 20 afternoon game.
“I’m really happy to see the crowd that was there cheering the team on,” Hodgson said. “It helps the team hearing the fans. We’ve brought a competitive team back to Morrisburg.”
Going into game three of the best-of-five series, the coach didn’t see any changes to the lineup being planned.
“The way the boys started today and played all game, if they can go into Game Three with that energy, it’s going to be a great game.”
The Lions travel up-river to Cardinal to take on the Rangers in Game Three February 26 at the Ingredion Centre. Puck drop for the game is at 5:40 p.m.
The river-rivalry series returns to Morrisburg February 27 at the Morrisburg Arena, puck drop is 2:15 p.m. Game five, if needed, has not yet been scheduled by the NCJHL.