MORRISBURG – Rust never sleeps, but sometimes it takes a game to shake it off. After over two weeks off for the Christmas Break, the Morrisburg Lions returned to the ice last weekend earning two out of four possible points at home.
The Lions, who last played on December 17, hosted the Westport Rideaus Saturday night (January 6), resulting in a 4-1 loss for Morrisburg.
Westport scored two goals in the first period, one in the second period, and one in the third period. Two of the Rideau’s four goals were power-play goals as the Lions’ penalty kill faltered that night.
Morrisburg was not without its own chances. A clear goal by Landen Sinfield was called off by the referees in the final minute of the second period. The Lions finally got on the scoreboard with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Defenceman Kayne McCadden and Curran Gilmour teed up Ashton Adams for his 10th goal of the season. While the goal energized the Lions, the team was missing key players in the third period due to illness or major penalties. Westport defeated Morrisburg 4-1.
“We beat ourselves that game. We came back not ready,” said Lions’ associate coach Steve Iwachniuk. “It was my biggest fear coming off the break. This loss woke the guys up a bit.”
The Lions welcomed the Almonte Inferno to the Morrisburg Arena Sunday afternoon (January 7). Almonte sits in last place in the league after a string of losses, combined with a bounce in play from the Metcalfe Jets in recent games.
Adams opened the Lions scoring late in the first period. Ben Lapier and Hudson Fetterly assisted Adams’ goal with two minutes remaining in the period. Lions led the Inferno 1-0.
Sinfield (from Josh Price and newcomer Jack Crinklaw) scored eight minutes into the second period, extending the Lions’ lead to two goals. Newly-named Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee scored on the power-play late in the period, adding to Morrisburg’s lead. Almonte clawed a goal back before the whistle – Morrisburg still lead 3-1.
The game opened up in the third period. Lapier scored a natural hat-trick in the period, while the Inferno managed one goal again. All three goals by Lapier in the period were playing five-on-five hockey. Morrisburg skated on to a 6-2 win over Almonte.
Iwachniuk said the play on Sunday was improved.
“It was a great team win,” he said. “That’s how we play. Everyone was contributing again.”
Seven players put up assists in the game. Iwachniuk also highlighted the play of rookie defenceman Alek Larocque and forward James Martens – both local players who developed in the local hockey program.
“Alek played the best game I’ve seen him play Sunday,” the coach said. “James was up in the top line for minutes. He’s developing, growing into the league. It’s great to see. They are both hard working players out there.”
The National Capital Junior Hockey League’s trade deadline is January 10, and the Lions have added one new player to the roster – Jack Crinklaw. The Belmonte, ON forward played for the Tweed Hawks U21 team in 2022-23.
Iwachniuk said the six foot, 185 pound winger likes to be aggressive into the corners.
“He brings a lot of energy,” Iwachniuk said. On the status of the roster, the coach said it’s management’s decision but he thinks the team is where it needs to be for the upcoming playoffs. “I think we’re pretty set. I’m happy with who we have here.”
The other change introduced to the team this past weekend was naming Brownlee as team captain. The Lions have played all season with four alternate captains providing leadership.
“Right from the beginning of the year, we wanted to see who would be most deserving of it,” Iwachniuk explained. “As the break is past, and it’s a special year, the decision was clear.”
Brownlee is the seventh captain named for the Lions since the team joined the NCJHL in the 2015-16 season.
“Justice has been a machine all year long,” Iwachniuk said of the captain. “He’s been consistent all year long and represents the team really well.”
Brownlee has been with Morrisburg for five years and is the longest-serving player on the roster. He has been an alternate captain for three seasons.
“It feels awesome to be named captain,” Brownlee told The Leader. “I’m really honoured to have this role.”
He recounted signing for the team.
“I signed for the Lions as junior player on my 16th birthday,” Brownlee said. “It’s great to be part of this organization.”
Being appointed captain was a surprise. Team president and general manager Kevin Casselman made the announcement in the locker room before the January 6 game against Westport.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Brownlee said.”
The Lions continue to lead the NCJHL West Division and are second in the league standings with 35 points (17 wins, one overtime loss.) Morrisburg has seven games remaining in the regular season and are 13 points behind defending league champions Gatineau Hull-Volant in the league standings. The Vankleek Hill Cougars are five points behind the Lions with two games in hand. The team travels to Westport January 12 for their last rematch against the Rideaus. The Lions lead their season series against the Rideaus three games to two.
On January 13, the Lions host the North Dundas Rockets at the Morrisburg Arena – 7:30 p.m.