Lions close out 2023 with a win over Rideaus

Morrisburg Lions’ forward Ben Lapier scored twice including this opening goal in the first period of the Lions-Westport Rideaus game December 17. Lapier had four points in the game. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – Entering the last weekend of hockey action of 2023, the Morrisburg Lions’ eight game winning streak came to an end at the hands of their river rivals, the South Grenville Rangers Saturday night. Despite the bitter 2-1 loss, the Lions’ rallied on Sunday to end the calendar year on a high note with a 5-2 win over the Westport Rideaus.

The Lions’ got on the scoreboard in the first period of their December 16 game with the Rangers. A power-play goal by Rylan Iwachniuk (from Justice Brownlee and Alex Bergeron) scored just eight seconds into the man advantage put the Lions up 1-0. The Rangers’ Connor Van Luit tied the game three minutes later.

South Grenville benefited from 10 power-play opportunities provided for them in the second period. On the ninth power-play, Matt White’s one-timer found his way past Lions’ goalie Carson Turner. The Lions trailed the Rangers 2-1 going into the third period.

More penalty issues plagued the Lions in the third period and they were unable to get any momentum towards the Rangers’ goal. The Lions lost 2-1.

“We beat ourselves that day,” said associate coach Steve Iwachniuk adding that fatigue played a factor in the loss.

A highlight for the coach was the play of Turner. “He’s played three games so far, and allowed two goals per game.”

Morrisburg bounced back the following afternoon (December 17) at home against the Westport Rideaus.

Late in the first period, Ben Lapier (Brownlee, Curran Gilmour) opened the Lions’ scoring. The Rideaus tied the game 1-1 with one minute left in the period.

Early in the second period, Josh Price (Lapier, Ashton Adams) sent Morrisburg back into the lead 2-1. Brownlee extended the Lions’ lead to 3-1 late in the period.

Westport clawed back one goal early in the third period. Back-to-back unanswered goals by Lapier and Price cemented a 5-2 win at home for Morrisburg.

“We had a bad day in South Grenville. I knew we’d reset. We did that on Sunday,” the coach said. “Our lines played really well. The defence had one of their better games. We played the way we needed to play. It was a good team win.”

Alternate captain Ben Lapier echoed the coach’s comments.

“We did a good job holding on to the lead and keep our foot on the gas,” Lapier said of Sunday’s win. He added that there were lessons out of Saturday’s loss to the Rangers.

“We can’t take any team for granted,” Lapier explained. “Saturday I think we came in, on this eight game streak, and did that.”

Lapier had two goals and two assists against the Rideaus, keeping him at the top of the National Capital Junior Hockey League standings for goals scored and second in the points and assists race. He shares the lead with teammate Brownlee for power-play goals (nine each) and leads the league for shorthanded goals with four.

In his second season with the Lions, he said that he is not focusing too much on the scoring stats.

“It would be cool to be at the top of the scoring list, sure. But it’s not a huge goal. It’s to win it all,” Lapier said. “We have a good group this year, I think we have the best year to win it all. Everyone wants to do well on the ice and produce for this team.”

One of four alternate captains this season, Lapier said the shared responsibility is a benefit.

“Everyone brings a different type of leadership on and off the ice,” he explained calling this season the “funnest” he has played in junior hockey.

“I love it,” Lapier said playing at home before the home crowd. “It’s great. You see the community out, the younger players watching, it’s great. You get extra energy out there when you hear your friends and family cheering you on.”

The Lions close out 2023 with their best record so far since joining the league in 2015. The team have 16 wins, eight losses and a tie, good for 33 points. They sit in second place overall, lead the NCJHL West Division, and have four players (including Lapier) in the league’s top-10 scoring stats. The league is on its Christmas Break and will not resume play until the new year. Morrisburg will hit the ice again on January 6, 2024 at home in a rematch against the Rideaus.

Looking ahead to the final nine games of the regular season, the team will only play teams within their division.

Lapier said the goal is to win all nine games.

“We want to win all nine and go into the playoffs in a strong position,” he said. “We have the depth in players, our defence are jumping in, all the lines are producing as a team.”

Coach Iwachniuk said the schedule in 2024 leading to the playoffs is a benefit, but only so far.

“With nine games left, we need to play a full 60 minutes if we want to win the championship this year,” he said adding that the long break at Christmas breaks the momentum a bit. “We’ll regroup and start over again. Good teams always find a way to win.”

McCadden rejoins Lions

Defenceman Kayne McCadden rejoined the Lions this weekend. McCadden, 20, was first signed to the Lions in 2019. This is his fourth season with the Lions having first been signed in August 2019. McCadden suited up for the first time this season in Prescott December 16.

“I felt Kayne played really well his first game back,” associate coach Steve Iwachniuk explained. “I think he is going to be a big addition to our defensive play. The players are really excited to have him back in the room. He plays with a lot of energy.”

Lions’ defenceman Curran Gilmour and forward Landen Sinfield kept trying for a tying goal in the third period against the South Grenville Rangers. Morrisburg lost 2-1 in Prescott.

Morrisburg Lions’ forward Josh Price (right) fires in this shot, scoring on the Westport Rideaus goalie during their Sunday afternoon tilt. Price scored twice in the Lions’ 5-2 win over the Rideaus December 17.

South Grenville Rangers’ goalie Hunter Sanger tries to save the puck from Morrisburg Lions’ forward Rylan Iwachniuk’s shot in the first period. Iwachniuk scored just eight seconds into the team’s power-play. It was the only goal for the Lions as the Rangers snapped the Lions’ eight-game winning streak Saturday night (December 16).


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