Morrisburg Lions’ semifinal series tied at one game each

Morrisburg Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee (centre, #16) breaks a 1-1 tie towards the end of the first period of the March 2 series opener, sending the puck past Vankleek Hill Cougars’ netminder Tristan Paquette. (The Leader/Blancher photos)
Morrisburg Lions goalie Carson Turner made 38 saves Saturday night and currently has a 3.06 GAA in the playoffs.

MORRISBURG – The Morrisburg Lions opened their playoff semifinal series against the Vankleek Hill Cougars with a resounding 6-2 win at home March 2.

Before a thundering crowd at the Morrisburg Arena, forward Ashton Adams opened the Lions’ scoring three minutes into the game. The Cougars’ Jérémy Marcotte countered a minute later to tie the game 1-1.

Only a minute was left in the period when Morrisburg captain Justice Brownlee scored (from Rylan Iwachniuk and Alex Bergeron) to take a 2-1 lead.

Morrisburg added two goals in the second period. First up, Ben Lapier’s power-play goal at the halfway mark (from Brownlee and Bergeron) which was followed by Bergeron’s goal in the final minute of the period (from Lapier.) Morrisburg led the game 4-1.

Third period action saw Lion forward Josh Price dig deep in Vankleek Hill’s end to send the puck past goalie Tristan Paquette. Price’s goal was assisted by Jakob Bennett and Josh Broad. Six minutes later, defenceman Kayne McCadden scored (Adams, Brascoupe) to extend the Lions’ lead further.

The Cougars’ kept trying to get back into the game, frequently trying to goad Lions’ players into drawing penalties – but cooler heads prevailed. Still, Marcotte clawed one goal back for the Cougars with less than four minutes left in the game.

The Lions cemented their first win in the best-of-seven semifinal round, 6-2, before a capacity crowd at the Morrisburg Arena. Lions’ goaltender Carson Turner blocked 38 shots in the game.

“It was game one – everyone wanted to win,” said Lions associate coach Steve Iwachniuk. “We had the energy. It started from the puck drop and ran until the final whistle.”

The coach said the work the team has put into being disciplined on the ice is paying off now.

“We have players who can play the big physical game, but we can’t get 25 minutes of penalties in a game and win. Everyone has to be consistent,” he said.

The series moved to Vankleek Hill for game two of the series March 3, resulting in a close 3-2 loss.

Scoreless into the second period, Lapier opened the Lions’ scoring four minutes in, assisted by Curran Gilmour and Iwachniuk. Morrisburg held the lead until the final four minutes of the period. Marcotte found his way past Turner to tie the game 1-1. This set off two minutes of scoring activity for both sides. Morrisburg allowed a goal on their penalty kill, but soon tied with a power-play goal of their own by Brownlee (Bergeron, Bennett) with 90 seconds left in the period. The teams were deadlocked 2-2 going into the third period.

The Lions were awarded a penalty shot with 7:30 remaining in the game. Adams’ potential game-winning shot was blocked by Cougars’ goalie Brayden Prevost, leaving the game tied still at two goals apiece. As overtime loomed, Malcolm Seguin scored the game-winning-goal for the Cougars with 15 seconds remaining on the clock. Morrisburg lost 3-2.

“Everybody in that building knew it was going to be a lucky bounce that would end the game and unfortunately that bounce went the Cougars’ way,” Lions’ goalie Turner told The Leader after the game. He explained nerves never got to him as the clock was winding down in the game.

“As big as the game was, the nerves were low. I like to just embrace the nerves and play through them.”

Coach Iwachniuk said the loss on Sunday could have gone either way.

“It’s playoff hockey. It came down to energy level and it was nowhere near what it was Saturday,” he said. “There’s lots of positives from the game. The Cougars have a strong power play, we have a strong penalty kill unit. By the end of the regular season, we had the number one power play in the league. Whether the goals are when there’s 15 seconds left, or in overtime, it’s going to sting anyways. We’ll focus on now, and prepare for tomorrow.”

The series swings back to Morrisburg for game three on Saturday night (March 9). Turner said that going into game, the intensity of the home crowd puts the team over the top.

“It’s super important. Everybody on the team plays with more intensity at home. [The crowd] brings the energy out in us. And they’ve been extremely supportive – and loud – which is what is needed at every game.”

Looking to game three, Turner said the team needs to keep doing what it’s already doing to win the series.

“It’s a battle, and we all know that,” he explained. “Emotions run high this time of year, it’s just whomever wants the win more is going to get it. If we play a full 60 minutes and stay out of the [penalty] box – they won’t know what hit them.”

Morrisburg hosts Vankleek Hill for game three on March 9. Puck drop for the game is at 7:30 p.m. Game four of the series returns to Vankleek Hill on March 10. Game five is scheduled for March 15 in Morrisburg. If needed, game six will be on March 16 on the road in VKH and game seven of the series on March 17 back in Morrisburg.

Lions’ forward Ayden Brascoupe scored just over two minutes into the March 2 game.

NCJHL: Cumberland-Gatineau series tied 1-1

GATINEAU, QC – A battle between the last two championship teams, the Gatineau Hull-Volant and the Cumberland (then Clarence) Castors in the other NCJHL playoff series resulted in the teams tied in the series 1-1.

The Castors, who won in 2021-22, defeated the Hull-Volant 3-2 in game one of the series March 1 in enemy territory – Gatineau. Cumberland took a 1-0 lead in the first period. Gatineau – who are the defending league champions – tied the game early in the second but the Castors gnawed their way back into the game, scoring twice to lead 3-1 after two periods of play. The Hull-Volant cut the Castors’ lead by a goal late in third period, but could not tie the game in time.

Gatineau won game two of the series Sunday night (March 3), defeating Cumberland 5-2.

The teams traded a pair of goals each in the first period, resulting in a 2-2 tie after 20 minutes of play. The Hull-Volant scored twice in the second period to take a 4-2 lead. An empty net goal in the dying embers of the third period resulted in the 5-2 win for Gatineau, tying the series at one game apiece.

The teams meet again for game three of the best-of-seven series at the Slush Puppie Arena in Gatineau March 8. Game four is in Cumberland on March 10, with the balance of the series played March 15-16-17 if needed.

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