Hard fought weekend for Morrisburg Jr. Lions

MORRISBURG – As the 2023 playoffs get closer, the Morrisburg Jr. Lions earned two out of a possible four points over the weekend with a close 5-4 victory over the Almonte Inferno January 21.

The Lions took a 2-1 lead in the first period. Keon Troccolli-Roik scored twice early in the period, assisted by Connor Manderson and Rylan Iwachniuk.

Ben Lapier extended the Lions’ lead in the second period, scoring on a power play from Manderson and Troccolli-Roik. Late in the period, the Inferno tied the game, sending two shorthanded goals past goalie Andrew Brooks in less than 80 seconds. The teams remained deadlocked into the final 20 minutes of the game 3-3.

Five minutes into the third period, the Inferno took the lead for the first time in the game. That lead lasted less than three minutes. Iwachniuk (from Justice Brownlee and Lapier) scored putting Morrisburg back in the game.

The teams remained tied until the final two minutes of the game, when Lapier one-timed the puck unassisted past Inferno goalie Diego Hennessey for the game winner. Lions held on to win 5-4.

Morrisburg travelled north to Chesterville less than 14 hours later to take on the North Dundas Rockets.

Brownlee (from Troccolli-Roik) put the visiting Lions on the scoreboard three minutes into the game. The Rockets countered with a pair of power play goals; the first from Parker Lefebvre four minutes into the game, the second at the 12 minute mark from Andrew O’Conner. A pair of short-handed breakaways from Troccolli-Roik resulted in a pair of goals scored – 50 seconds apart – as the Lions leapt ahead of the Rockets 3-2 by the end of the second period.

Manderson (from Troccolli-Roik and Iwachniuk) added a fourth goal on the pile for Morrisburg early on in the second period. Tempers flared on the ice resulting in Ben Lapier (Morrisburg) and Tyler Ballentyne (North Dundas) exiting the game in the middle of the period.

The Rockets took advantage of the resulting power play to steal the momentum away from the Lions. Cole Hodges scored, followed by an even strength goal from Kyle Green. Morrisburg and North Dundas were tied 4-4 going into the third period.

Green put the Rockets into the lead with six minutes remaining in the game. Even with the extra man, the Lions fell short of staging a third period comeback. An empty net goal scored in the final second of the game resulted in a 6-4 win for the Rockets.

Morrisburg goalie Andrew Brooks faced 61 shots in the game. The team had 32 shots on Rockets’ goalie Anton Moshchensky.

The Lions (9-17-0-2) improved to 20 points in the standings and remain in seventh place. There now are four points separating the team and Almonte. Morrisburg has won five of its last 10 games this year.

Notable from the weekend is that Troccolli-Roik retook the top spot in the National Capital Junior Hockey League’s scoring race, adding four goals to make it an impressive 40 goal season for him.

In the points race, Troccolli-Roik sits in third with 68 points, but shares the top-10 with some team mates. Four of the top-10 points getters play for the Lions. Iwachniuk (47 points) is seventh overall, while Brownlee (46 points) and Connor Manderson (44) are ninth and 10th on the list respectively.

With eight games remaining in the regular season, the Lions travel to Westport January 27 to take on the Rideaus. Morrisburg hosts the Vankleek Hill Cougars January 28. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader