End of the road – Morrisburg Lions exit playoffs

Morrisburg Lions exit playoffs – The Morrisburg Lions lost Game Five of their semifinal series against the Vankleek Hill Cougars 5-2 on March 15 at home before a capacity crowd. The loss ends the team’s playoff hopes. Read more about the game by turning to page 4. Pictured above, the Lions’ forward line of Josh Broad (right, #8), Josh Price (left, #6) and Landen Sinfield (behind goal, #12) kept grinding in the second period, trying to get a tying goal.
Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee opened scoring in the first period with this shot past Cougars’ goalie Tristan Paquette. Brownlee would go on to score both goals for Morrisburg in the 5-2 loss Friday night. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – It was close until the last five minutes, but it was those last five minutes that made the difference, ending the Morrisburg Lions’ playoff run on March 15.

The Lions entered Game Five of their playoff semifinal series against the Vankleek Hill Cougars with a daunting task – winning three consecutive games. Morrisburg won the series opener two Saturdays before, but dropped the next three games.

Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee opened up the scoring midway through the first period, set up by Ben Lapier and Curran Gilmour. Brownlee deeked around the stick-side of Cougars’ goalie Tristan Paquette and banked it off the far post to score. The Cougars scored seven minutes later on a power-play, tying the game at one goal apiece going into the second period.

The Lions penalty-kill went into overdrive midway through the second period as Lapier’s pass saw Brownlee who scored a short-handed goal, sending Morrisburg back into the lead 2-1. Vankleek Hill burned Morrisburg in the final two minutes of the period, scoring twice 75 seconds apart to take the lead for the first time in the game. After 40 minutes, the Lions trailed the Cougars 3-2.

Forward Alex Bergeron (centre, #17) charges for the puck in the second period of Game Five of the playoff series. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

The Lions had three big power-play chances in the third period, but were unable to find the back of the net. A potentially equalizing shot by Lapier from distance was saved by the post. With 3:34 remaining in the game, Cougars’ forward Malcolm Seguin, extending their lead to 4-2. An empty-net goal just over a minute later sealed the deal. The Lions’ fell to the Cougars 5-2 and exited the 2023-24 playoffs.

“We lost to a good team,” Iwachniuk said after the game. “They capitalized on some opportunities, and we couldn’t score enough to make up the difference. It’s frustrating because we wanted to win. The team left everything we could have on the ice. It’s unfortunate, but that’s hockey.”

Despite the playoff exit, Iwachniuk said Morrisburg had a lot to be proud of this year.

“It’s been a special year, we should be proud of what we’ve accomplished. Morrisburg won their division, had the second best record in the league, two players who won league awards, and we made it to the second round of the playoffs. We can hold our heads high.”

Forward Josh Broad tries to get the puck past Cougars’ goalie Paquette with no luck. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

The coach continued that the team’s progression throughout the season was a highlight.

“Seeing the development of the team throughout the year, seeing their confidence grow as young men, and being able to find success on the ice, these are things those kids will remember,” he explained. “Success in our program is so much greater than just that end result. We’re here to win the championship, but we have a firm belief to be better people and better athletes. It’s been a very successful year.”

Team captain Justice Brownlee told The Leader that the Game Five result was really down to puck luck.

“Sometimes you don’t get the puck luck you want, and for us the puck couldn’t find the back of the net enough to win the game,” he said.

Showing that sports is about so much more than just wins and losses, Lions’ captain Justice Brownlee is hugged by his father Jeff on the ice as the game marked the end of his junior playing career. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

The result not only ended the Lions’ third consecutive playoff run, it marks the end of junior hockey for Brownlee and the three other players (Curran Gilmour, Rylan Iwachniuk, and Alex Bergeron).

“Yea, it is a tough loss when it ends your junior career. But at least I went out showing that no matter what, I wasn’t going to quit. I was there from 16 years and I wanted to bring the fight to my last game.”

At the end of the second round of the playoffs, Brownlee stood third overall in playoff stats this year with 12 goals and seven assists. Lapier closes out the playoffs in fourth overall, also with 19 points from five goals and 14 assists. Bergeron had 16 points including five goals.

Forward Rylan Iwachniuk (#9) fires in a shot near the home bench with Associate Coach Steve Iwachniuk (right) and Assistant Coach Jamie Smith watching on. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

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