Morrisburg Jr. Lions playoff bound after win against Rockets

Playoff bound Lions to face Castors in first round – For the second straight year, the Morrisburg Jr. Lions are going to the playoffs. The team earned a crucial two points last weekend with a win over their Dundas County rivals, the North Dundas Rockets, and cemented their spot in the 2023 National Capital Junior Hockey League playoffs. Read more about the Lions’ on-ice successes and a preview of the playoffs on page 10. Pictured above, Lions’ defenceman Rylan Iwachniuk scored in the second period of their final regular season game against the South Grenville Rangers on February 19 in Cardinal. (The Leader/Blancher photos)
Hat Trick for Lions’ forward Alex Bergeron.

CHESTERVILLE – It took four tries, but the Morrisburg Lions finally took down the North Dundas Rockets in the teams’ final regular season tilt last Saturday. Both teams entered the game needing the win. Morrisburg was locked in a three-way fight with Westport and Almonte to secure seventh place in the standings, while North Dundas was in a three-way fight for first place in the standings. A loss for Morrisburg could send the team into a three-game play-in series for the eighth and final playoff spot.

With playoff positions on the line, the Lions leapt into action early in the first period. Alex Bergeron (from Kayne McCadden) scored two minutes into the game, which was followed five minutes later with a power play goal by Rylan Iwachniuk (from Ben Lapier.) Morrisburg led North Dundas 2-0 as the teams headed into the second period.

Bergeron (from Iwachniuk and Carter Tait) made it 3-0 less than three minutes into the second period, but the Rockets returned fire minutes later. Cameron Cotnam’s power play goal put North Dundas on the scoreboard. A minute later, Morrisburg’s Landen Sinfield (from Lapier) restored the Lions’ three-goal lead. Rockets’ goals by Parker Lefevbre and Andrew O’Connor cut the Lions’ lead to one goal.

North Dundas tied the game 4-4 early in the third period. That lasted less than two minutes as Morrisburg’s Josh Price (Josh Broad, Iwachniuk) scored the go-ahead goal. Bergeron (Iwachniuk, Curran Gilmour) added a power play goal with less than six minutes remaining to complete his hat trick. Iwachniuk’s shorthanded goal (Lapier) with 46 seconds left in the game added extra insurance for a 7-4 Lions’ win. Goalie Andrew Brooks claimed his ninth win of the season for Morrisburg.

“We’re pretty happy with the boys,” said Lions’ Captain Dean Lapier after the game. “We won the ‘Battle of Dundas’ that night and beat them when it mattered.”

The win, Morrisburg’s 13th of the season, clinched seventh place and avoided the team having to battle in the play-in. Meanwhile, North Dundas’ loss combined with the Clarence Castors’ three point weekend dropped the Rockets into a third place finish in the regular season.

The Rockets will face St. Isidore in the first round of the playoffs, while the Lions will take on last season’s champions, the Castors beginning February 25.

Morrisburg Lions’ Landen Sinfield, Dean Lapier, and Hudson Fetterly attacked the South Grenville Rangers’ goal during the second period of their February 18 game in Cardinal.

Lions lose to Rangers, finish seventh

CARDINAL – For the Morrisburg Jr. Lions, the South Grenville Rangers has been the team’s regular season great white whale. After losing each of the first three games this season to the Rangers, the Lions closed out their 2022-23 season trying for one last time to beat the one team they have been unable to defeat. Unfortunately for Morrisburg, a win against South Grenville remained illusive, as the Lions lost 7-4.

The Rangers took a late first period lead over the Lions. Zach White (Cole Jelly, Colin Stacey) was first to get his team on the scoreboard. A power play goal by Ethan Wooller less than two minutes later doubled the Rangers’ lead to 2-0.

Morrisburg defenceman Rylan Iwachniuk (Owen Fetterly, Ben Pilon) got the Lions back into the game five minutes into the second period. But South Grenville added three unanswered goals later in the period. Cole Jelly (from Cooper Rogers, Nic McFarlane) scored on a power play, followed by two goals from Justin Greene – the first at even strength, followed by a short handed goal seven seconds later. Rangers led the Lions 5-1 heading into the third period.

South Grenville added two more goals (Jelly, Wooller) to extend their lead 7-1 early in the third period. Then Morrisburg tried for a comeback. First up, Alex Bergeron (Iwachniuk) scored, followed by Landen Sinfield (Josh Broad, Dean Lapier), and Pilon (Broad, Hudson Fetterly). The gulf in scoring was too great for the Lions to overcome, as the Rangers won 7-4.

The Lions close out the 2022-23 regular season with a lot of positives as team captain Dean Lapier reflected on after the game.

“I’m pretty proud of everyone on the team,” he told The Leader. “At the start of the season, no one knew each other. We beat ourselves in a lot of games early on. But we really started to bond as a team in the second half of the season and came together.”

Lapier said the whole team bought into the changes made in the season with new players joining before the deadline. A majority of the Lions wins came after a coaching change in November.

“We all bought in, got to know how everyone plays. We figured it out,” he said.

Looking ahead to the playoffs, Lapier said he feels good about the Lions’ chances against last season’s league champions, the Clarence Castors.

“We beat them once this season, and lost twice by one goal,” he explained adding the Lions got a point out of one of those losses which were pushed into overtime. “I feel pretty good about facing them. They are a clean team, and I think out of all the top teams, this is going to be a great series.”

Lions’ general manager and head coach Cody Casselman agreed saying “We look forward to a good series with Clarence. It’ll be about momentum and should be a good series.”

The Lions have been without some of its top forwards as the regular season wound down. Keon Troccolli-Roik and Justice Brownlee were already out due to injury. Leading into the weekend, Connor Manderson was added to injury list.

Casselman had no update on specifics to when the trio would return but was hopeful to have them back in the lineup “at some point during this playoff run.”

Morrisburg will open the first game of its 2023 playoff run in Clarence Creek near Rockland against the Castors on February 25.

Lapier encouraged fans to come out and support the team in the playoffs as they have all season. Game two of the five-game playoff series shifts to the Morrisburg Arena February 26. Puck drop for game two is at 2:30 p.m.

“The fans really help out the team,” he said. “The kids coming out, cheering, it all helps us out there when we play.”

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