Morrisburg Lions one win away from semis

Morrisburg Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee (#16, centre) celebrates after scoring his second goal of the night. The Lions thumped the North Dundas Rockets 9-3 before a capacity crowd in Game Four of the playoff series. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – The Morrisburg Lions have been in this spot the last two years – one win away from advancing to the National Capital Junior Hockey League’s semi-finals. They are one win away again, and look to finish out their opening series against North Dundas Friday night.

The Lions, who opened Game One of the playoff series against the North Dundas Rockets February 13 with a 4-3 win, squared off for three games over three nights – winning two.

Game Two of the best-of-seven game playoff series was in Chesterville Friday night where Morrisburg got off to a rough start. Back-to-back goals by Rockets’ forward Parker Lefebvre saw the Lions trail 2-0 at the end of the first period. A quick bounce in play by Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee and defenceman Hudson Fetterly had the game tied 2-2 five minutes into the second period. A power-play goal by Cam Sherrer returned the Rockets to the lead. North Dundas added a pair of goals in the third period to lead the game 5-2. Alex Bergeron pulled back a power-play goal in the final two minutes of the game, but it was not enough. The Lions’ lost 5-3.

“North Dundas worked really hard. They crashed our net and capitalized on our defensive breakdowns,” said Lions’ associate coach Steve Iwachniuk after the game.

Returning home for Game Three before a capacity crowd at the Morrisburg arena, the Lions’ energy level changed.

“Everyone on the team was excited to play at home,” Iwachniuk said. Play the team did.

Morrisburg took a 1-0 lead 36 seconds into the first period (Bergeron from Fetterly) and Brownlee (from Ben Lapier) made it 2-0 half-a-period later. Sherrer pulled the Rockets back late in the period to make it an interesting 2-1 game.

The Lions dominated the second period, scoring three unanswered goals. Up first, Brownlee scored his second goal of the night (from Lapier and Kayne McCadden) at the six minute mark of the period. A minute later, Justin Cyr scored (from Curran Gilmour and Josh Broad) followed by a power-play goal with four minutes left on the clock by Lapier (from Bergeron). Morrisburg built up a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Six minutes into the third period and on a Lions’ power-play, goalie Carson Turner found Lapier who funneled the puck to Rylan Iwachniuk who buried the puck in the back of North Dundas’ goal – Lions led 6-2. Then things got hairy.

The Rockets got control of the puck more, and with Lions defenceman Owen Fetterly serving a double-minor penalty, blasted ahead. North Dundas forward Theo Laforest scored back-to-back power-play goals two minutes apart. Morrisburg continued to lead North Dundas 6-3.

The Lions found better footing, and were on the power-play two minutes later. Forward Ashton Adams’ scored the first of three goals in a natural hat-trick across six minutes to extend the Lions’ lead. Lapier assisted his first goal, followed by Gilmour and Iwachniuk assisting on his second 2:22 minutes later. Adams – the rookie from Brasher Falls, NY – finished off his hatty unassisted with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The Lions grounded the Rockets 9-3 to take Game Three of the series.

“We all knew we had to bring way more energy than we did in Game Two,” said Brownlee. “Every one of us came out the most energy we could in that game.”
Going back to Chesterville for Game Four of the series Sunday night, Brownlee said momentum mattered. “In playoffs, there’s going to be momentum swings all the time. We knew we had to stay composed and just keep playing our game.”

Play they did, winning 3-2 – with the team’s third line playing a key role. A power-play goal by Josh Price (from Josh Broad and Landen Sinfield) gave the Lions a 1-0 lead. Rockets’ Parker Lefebvre tied the game five minutes later but another power-play put the Lions back on top. Brownlee scored (from Bergeron and Lapier) with a minute left in the period – Morrisburg led North Dundas 2-1.
Jarret Ladouceur’s power-play goal five minutes into the second period tied the game at two goals apiece. That tie lasted just 11 seconds as Broad scored the game-winning-goal (Cyr and Sinfield) with over 35 minutes left to play in the game. The Lions beat the Rockets 3-2 and lead the series three games to one.

Iwachniuk said the team’s third line (Broad, Price, and Sinfield, with Cyr rotating through) made the difference Sunday.

“Those guys, they’re all high energy guys. It was their best game this year,” he said adding that having the depth through all the teams’ lines has helped the Lions adjust as they go.

“I don’t care what the role is, everyone on this team can score goals and contribute. They’ve shown it all season,” Iwachniuk said. “Having that depth and being able to play a grinding game when we need to is huge.”

The Lions are one win from advancing past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 playoffs when the franchise was in the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The series swings back to Morrisburg Friday night for Game Five.

“Friday night, back in Morrisburg, it’s going to be a big night,” the coach said. “It’s going to be a war.”

Game Five will be played at the Morrisburg Arena February 23 and starts at 8:30 p.m. If needed, game six of the series will be played February 24 in Chesterville. Game seven is scheduled for February 25 at the Morrisburg Arena. Puck drop is at 6:45 p.m.

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