Losing weekend for Morrisburg Jr. Lions

MORRISBURG – Luck was not on the Jr. Lions side as they chalked up a pair of losses over the weekend, including a loss to the basement-dwelling Metcalfe Jets November 12. Metcalfe had yet to win 12 games into the 2022-23 season and had lost 11-2 to the North Dundas Rockets the night before.

The Jets finally got off the runway seven minutes into the first period when Carter Howell’s unassisted goal went by Lions’ goalie Andrew Brooks. Metcalfe led Morrisburg 1-0 after 20 minutes.

Two goals scored five minutes apart in the second period put the Lions down in a hole 3-0. Getting shots on goal was not the problem for Morrisburg, but the Lions ran into Jets’ goalie Jacob Scrivener, who stopped 50 of 51 shots for the night. Keon Troccolli-Riok scored the Lions lone goal of the game, on the final power play opportunity of the night with Rylan Iwachniuk and Justice Brownlee assisting in the goal.

Morrisburg out shot Metcalfe by 20 goals (51-31) but ended on the wrong side of the 3-1 scoreline for the game. Metcalfe picked up their first win of the season, to snap a 14 game losing skid going back to the previous season.

“It was a tough loss Saturday at home,” said Lions’ General Manager and Head Coach Cody Casselman. “We just didn’t match their compete level and ran into a goalie who stood on his head. He may have had the best hockey game of his life.”

The coach said that injuries have been a factor for the team. Team captain Dean Lapier and defenceman Owen Fetterly were out this weekend due to undisclosed injuries.

“Both are expected back in the lineup soon to give us some depth,” Casselman added.

The Lions tried to shake off the loss in St. Isidore November 13 against the Eagles.

Keon Troccolli-Riok scored his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Brownlee and Iwachniuk, nine minutes into the game. Brownlee (from Bowen Gaceta and Troccolli-Riok) added a goal of his own in the final three minutes of the period, Morrisburg led St. Isidore 2-0.

Connor Manderson’s power play goal four minutes into the second (from Iwachniuk and Curran Gilmour) had the Lions up 3-0 on the Eagles.

St. Isidore scored with two seconds remaining in the second period, then scored three goals in under five minutes in the third to fly past the Lions and into the lead 4-3. Two of those three goals were on Eagles’ power play opportunities.

Another goal by the Eagles with under six minutes remaining increased the team’s lead on the Lions. But Morrisburg was not quite done with the game. Ben Pilon and Landen Sinfield set up Brownlee’s goal with 4:44 remaining. The Lions then finished the final three minutes of the game on a penalty kill. St. Isidore defeated Morrisburg 5-4.

The points by Troccolli-Riok keep him in the top-three in the league stats with 14 goals, 15 assists for 29 points. Brownlee’s 12 goals and 10 assists have him ninth in the points standing.

After the game, Lions’ coach Cody Casselman said that a short bench due to injuries and illness gave another South Dundas Lions U18B-Rep player – Wyatt Barkley – an opportunity to affiliate with the team.

“Our players show great character competing with a short bench,” the coach said. “They came out and established our game plan and controlled the game for the first two periods.”

He explained that the team ran out of gas in the third period and penalties by the team were not helpful.

“Our guys gave their everything, made it a game at the end, and just fell short,” said Casselman. “Our goaltender Austin Lebano played a fantastic game. He made a number of huge saves to give us a chance to win the hockey game.”

The win by St. Isidore moved that team into fourth place overall (10-3-0-0), tied statistically with the North Dundas Rockets. Morrisburg’s double-losses this weekend keep the team in seventh place (3-9-0-1), tied in points with the Almonte Inferno (2-8-2-1), but with one additional win.

Casselman said that the team is still getting used to the coaching change from a couple of weeks ago. “We are emphasizing our new systems and when we stick to and play them, the evidence is there that we can play with any team,” he explained.

Other changes so far include adding new players into the locker room with forwards Bowen Gaceta and George Daher joining the roster. Gaceta has played two seasons in the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, first with the Athens Aeros, then last season with time split between the Westport Rideaus, Richmond Royals, and Brockville Tikis. Daher played three seasons with the Ottawa Jr. Canadians in the EOJHL before arriving in Morrisburg.

“We have added some new guys to push the compete level a bit,” Casselman said. “We’re continuing to improve our defensive zone and look to bring our team goals against down.”

The Lions have the third-highest goals scored against in the league, but are also the fifth-highest scoring team so far this season.

Morrisburg has two games on the road this weekend. November 18, the team will travel to Westport to face the Rideaus. That road trip will continue November 20 when the team visit the Almonte Inferno.

The Lions’ next home game is against Dundas County rivals, the North Dundas Rockets, on November 26. Puck drop at the Morrisburg Arena is at 7:15 p.m.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader