After coming out unlucky against Waterloo on Friday the 13th, the Elmira Sugar Kings rebounded on Valentine’s Day to down Guelph 2-1 and followed that up by knocking around Owen Sound 9-2 on Sunday.
“I think most times when you get two out of three games, you’re probably pretty pleased, but I think our guys were expecting to win all three,” said head coach Geoff Haddaway. “We
bounced back nicely and played a really good road game [on Saturday], but our guys would have been obviously much happier if we got all three.”
On Feb. 13, the Kings took a 2-1 lead in the opening frame, courtesy of a power play goal from Kyle McNeil and a second marker from Kyle Blaney.
But Elmira handed the Siskins four power play opportunities in the second, and Waterloo tied things up with a power play goal.
Josh Ranalli scored 30 seconds into the third period to reclaim the lead, but Waterloo came back with two unanswered goals, one of them on the power play, to make it 4-3. With 38 seconds left in the game, and the Kings hunting for a tying goal, the Siskins slid the puck into the empty net to clinch the win.
“We had a solid game but we let penalties take us over and our emotions take us over,” said forward Philip Teri. “We let them get back into the game and we lost a game we thought we should have won.”
The Kings didn’t let the loss rattle them, coming back with a solid, controlled game in Guelph Saturday night. The Kings doubled the Dominators’ shots, holding Guelph to 24 while firing 48 of their own.
Blaney opened the scoring with an unassisted goal 14 minutes into the first period. After a scoreless second period, McNeil made it 2-0 with three minutes left in the game. Guelph finally got on the board with a minute and a half to go, and the game ended 2-1.
“We certainly controlled the play, you could tell just by the shots, but Brandon Wysman was really solid in net too,” Haddaway said. “We didn’t give up a lot of chances but the ones we did give up, he was there for the most part to bail us out.”
Returning to home ice on Sunday, the Kings ganged up on the Owen Sound Greys for the third time in as many games, hammering the struggling squad 9-2.
Teri led off the scoring 52 seconds in, blasting the puck past Owen Sound keeper George Grammenopoulos. He followed that up with a second goal six minutes later, backhanding in the rebound on a shot from Tyler Kuntz.
Owen Sound notched only one penalty in the first period but gave up five power play opportunities in the second frame, including a 5-on-3.
Elmira converted on three of the power plays, with goals from McNeil, Jarred Parent, and Ranalli. Kuntz added another goal, putting the perfect finish on a cross from Teri, to make it 6-0 for the home squad by the end of the second.
Teri completed a hat trick 18 seconds into the third frame, carrying the puck up the left side and letting a wrist shot rip from the circle.
Two minutes in, Trent Hawke put Owen Sound on the board, flicking the puck over Wysman’s trapper.
At 12:38, new recruit Andrew Smith notched his first goal for the Kings to make it 8-1. Owen Sound’s Matt Reid scored the Greys’ only power play goal with four and a half minutes to go, but it did little to dent Elmira’s lead. Finally, with three minutes remaining, Kuntz found the mesh with his second of the game to make the final score 9-2.
“You can say whatever you want to the guys, but they know ahead of time that it’s probably going to be a really one-sided game,” Haddaway said of Sunday’s contest. “I was pleased with the fact that our guys came out and competed hard. I didn’t see any guys cheating, waiting for pucks so they could get goals or get assists. I thought they competed really hard.”
It was a good night for the line of Teri, Kuntz and Therrien, who combined for five goals.
“They’ve been playing well for quite a few games now, so for them to get on the scoreboard and get rewarded that way was nice,” Haddaway said.
“At practice the other night, Geoff [Haddaway]kind of called us out on being better defensively and we told him we were up to that task,” Teri said. “Right away he gave us more ice time because he gave us more responsibility, so we’re happy with that and we thought we did well.”
The Kings’ latest addition, Andrew Smith, got a rapid introduction to junior hockey, playing all three games on the weekend. Smith signed with the team after his high school season at Resurrection ended.
Haddaway said Smith is making the transition as well as can be expected, having missed training camp and the regular season to jump in before the playoffs.
“It’s a big jump from high school to junior,” Haddaway said. “Someone like Andrew and some of the premier high school players … they’re taking two and three-minute shifts because they’re allowed to do that kind of thing. They come to our level and it’s 20 to 30 seconds and get off the ice. The speed is so much higher.”
The Kings have a lock on seventh place, but their opponent in the first round of the playoffs will be determined by this weekend’s games. Before the weekend, Waterloo, Kitchener and Listowel were in a dead heat for second with 66 points each.
Knowing the team has defeated all three of the second-place contenders gives the Kings some confidence, Teri said.
“We think we can beat all three of them.”
Tomorrow’s (Sunday) matchup could end up being a preview of the first round, as the Kings take on Listowel at home. Game time is 7 p.m.