Jr. Lions exit playoffs in deciding game five

Blocked at every direction – Morrisburg Jr. Lions forward Landen Sinfield (left, #12) is blocked by a Clarence Castors defenceman as he zeroed in on the visitors’ goal Sunday afternoon. The Lions held a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five first round playoff series going into the March 5 game in Morrisburg. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

CLARENCE CREEK – The Morrisburg Jr. Lions post-season is over after suffering a 7-2 loss in Wednesday night’s deciding game in their first round playoff series against the Clarence Castors. The Lions were forced into the deciding fifth game of the best-of-five game series after losing game four in Morrisburg March 5.

Morrisburg was short players due to injury, and were dealt a further blow Sunday when alternate captain and defenceman Rylan Iwachnick was tossed from the game and given a one-game suspension due to head contact. Wednesday’s game did see the return from injury of fellow ‘A’ Connor Manderson to the line up.

The Castors hit early, and often in the first period. In the opening minute of the game, Josh Préfontaine got past Lions’ goaltender Andrew Brooks – it was the first of five goals scored on the Lions that period.

Leading 5-0, the Castors added insult to injury in the second period scoring two power play goals to extend their lead to 7-0.

In the final 20 minutes of the game, the Lions did attempt to battle back. Jakob Bennett scored seven minutes into the period (from Carter Tait and Manderson). Tait followed up with a shorthanded goal (Alex Bergeron and Landen Sinfield) a minute later. The Lions still trailed the Castors 7-2 with 12 minutes remaining.

The Castors added an eighth goal four minutes later. That, combined with some penalties called against the Lions in the waning minutes of the game, made the Lions’ chances of a comeback next to impossible. Morrisburg lost game five with a final score of 8-2 and exit the 2023 National Capital Junior Hockey League playoffs.

Clarence will take on the North Dundas Rockets in the playoff semi-final series, while the South Grenville Rangers will face the Gatineau Hull-Volant in the other playoff semi-final series.

How the Lions got here?

Morrisburg entered the playoff weekend against the Clarence Castors tied at one game apiece, playing game three on the road March 4. For Lions’ captain Dean Lapier, it was career-high four point effort as the Lions doubled the Castors 6-3.

Kayne McCadden opened the Lions’ scoring less than two minutes into the game, assisted by Carter Tait and Lapier. Three minutes later, Lapier scored his first of three goals in the game (from Tait, and Jakob Bennett.)

Late in the first period, Lapier (from Alex Bergeron and Ben Pilon) scored a power play goal, giving the Lions a 3-0 lead.

Morrisburg had a scoreless second period, successfully fending off two power play opportunities for Clarence. The Castors pulled two even-strength goals back, the first three minutes in, the second with five minutes left, in the period.

The Lions held off the Castors for the first two-thirds of the third period, despite a five minute power play awarded to Clarence for head contact. With six minutes remaining, the Castors tied the game at 3-3, but 15 seconds after the goal, the Lions found themselves on a five minute power play of their own.

Just over three minutes remained in the game when Tait’s power play goal (from Rylan Iwachniuk and Curran Gilmour) lifted the Lions back out in front 4-3. A minute later, Lapier’s own power play goal (from Josh Broad) added insurance.

Playing the final two minutes at four-on-four hockey due to a Lions’ minor penalty, a breakaway by Ben Lapier resulted in his unassisted goal. Lions win game three 6-3.

The series flipped to Morrisburg 18 hours later on Sunday afternoon. Looking to clinch the series, the Lions were having to dispatch the Castors but stumbled with multiple turns in the penalty box.

Desperate to stay alive in the playoff series, the Castors hit back early, scoring eight minutes into the game. Forward Alex Bergeron (from Bennett and Iwachniuk) scored a power play goal less than three minutes later to tie the game 1-1.

Late in the period, with three of the top five scoring forwards for the Lions out due to injury, Iwachniuk was tossed from the game with a game misconduct.
Late in the second period, the Castors’ Jacob Servant scored the go-ahead goal to send the visitors into the lead 2-1.

The Lions found themselves in the penalty box three times in the third period, and the Castors capitalized on the opportunity scoring two power play goals which resulted in a 4-1 loss for the Lions in game four.

The Leader will have more on the end of the Lions’ playoff run in the March 15 issue print edition.

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