The Elmira Sugar Kings christened their new rink with their first win on home ice last Sunday, downing the Kitchener Dutchmen 5-2.
After allowing a pair of goals in the first period, the Kings dominated play through the next two frames, outshooting the Dutchies nearly two to one.
“It’s certainly nice to reestablish the winning tradition on home ice,” said head coach Geoff Haddaway after the game.
“We didn’t play really well on Friday, so it was nice for the guys to come back with a strong effort.”
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On Sept. 18, the Kings dropped a 4-0 decision to Waterloo in the Siskins’ home opener. Waterloo took a 2-0 lead in the first period with an unassisted goal from Eric Jackson and a second marker from Kevin Henriques. After a scoreless second period, the Siskins added another pair in the third frame, from Mark Mantynen and Tanner Pearson.
Keeper Brendan Gorecki stopped 50 shots in the loss, putting up what Haddaway said was the best performance of the team.
“[Gorecki] played really well for us – probably our one player who played well for 60 minutes on Friday.”
On Sunday, the Kings came out hungry and played a tough, physical game that Haddaway said will be their hallmark this season.
“I think we’re built to be physical. We have a lot of guys who like to play that way. … If there’s a game where you see us not being physical, then we’re not playing within our strengths.”
In net for the Dutchies was Brandon Wysman, who played 31 games for the Kings last season. His former teammates pressed him closely around the net, picking up three penalties for goalie interference in the process.
“We saw him all last year in practices and games, so I think it’s fair to say we had a good read on him,” Haddaway said.
The visitors were first on the scoreboard with a power play goal from Derek Schoenmakers just 1:30 into the game.
Veteran forward Tyler Kuntz tied it up for the Kings with a stylish goal at 7:01, coming in on Wysman’s right side, deking around him and then tucking it in the left corner.
Paul Thompson made it two for the Kings at 11:28, blasting a shot that glanced off Wysman’s glove.
With four minutes remaining in the first period, Schoenmakers scored his second of the game shorthanded, making it 2-2 as the buzzer sounded.
The second period was all about the Kings, as they outshot the Dutchmen 17-10 and added three more goals to their total.
The Kings started the period by picking up four penalties in short succession, killing off each one thanks to some big saves from Gorecki.
Pressing the Dutchies on a power play at 8:38, Kuntz let off a shot that Wysman blocked, but Riley Sonnenburg was perfectly positioned to hammer in the rebound. A minute later, after a barrage of shots and rebounds, Brennon Pearce batted the puck past Wysman to make it 4-2.
The Kings notched their second power play goal at 11:44, with Tyson LeBlanc scoring on a feed from Ryan Johnston.
With a three-goal lead, the Kings shifted to a more defensive game in the third period. The Dutchmen pulled Wysman and sent in backup Duncan Long. Long put the net in lockdown but so did Gorecki; with no goals on either side, the game ended 5-2.
Haddaway praised Gorecki for the way he rebounded after letting in the first two shots he faced.
“Their third shot in the period was a huge breakdown in front of him and he came up with a huge save, so I’m sure that reestablished his confidence. Going into the second period, he was probably the single best penalty killer out there.”
The coach said the Kings will be polishing up their systems this week in preparation for tonight (Saturday’s) matchup with Fort Erie. On Sunday, the Kings return home to take on Wheatfield. Game time is 7 p.m.