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Kings come close, but drop two games

It was a case of too little, too late last weekend for the Elmira Sugar Kings, as their valiant efforts to come back from a 3-0 deficit fell just short; the Cambridge Winter Hawks went home with a 3-2 victory Sunday night.

“We had a terrific third period but it simply wasn’t enough,” said head coach Geoff Haddaway.

This disappointment for the team came after a similar challenge Dec. 4, when the Kings lost 3-2 in overtime following a tough battle against the Stratford Cullitons.

Tyler Luikkonen of the Cambridge Winter Hawks looks on as the puck bounces towards Elmira goalie Brandon Gorecki during Sunday’s game. The Hawks held on to beat the Kings 3-2.
Tyler Luikkonen of the Cambridge Winter Hawks looks on as the puck bounces towards Elmira goalie Brandon Gorecki during Sunday’s game. The Hawks held on to beat the Kings 3-2.

“The games were so close,” noted Haddaway. “I feel as though we should have won both of them but that’s just not the way it turned out.”

The Friday night match started out well for the Kings, who built up a 2-0 lead by the halfway point of the second period on goals by Lukas Baleshta and Riley Sonnenburg. However, Stratford’s Craig Dalrymple and Chett Binning came back with goals in the second and third periods to force the extra frame. In OT, Steve McParland gave the Cullitons the two points.

“We weren’t able to hold the lead and we really paid the price for that. Their goal in the second gave them some momentum and they started to believe. That was a tough loss for us.”

But it can’t be said that the Kings came to Sunday’s game looking defeated. In fact, they were anything but.

While the score sheet shows Cambridge potting the first three goals – Brett Priestap, Cody Hall and Tanner Rutland – the Kings fought hard and played fast all night.

“Late in the first I thought we started to take it to them again,” noted the coach. “Even though we lost the second period I thought we played OK – we just made a couple mistakes and the puck was in the back of our net.”

The trouble for the Kings seemed to be simply a matter of being able to get the puck past Cambridge netminder Kyle Ruhl, as they managed to outshoot the Winter Hawks 41-29 overall, but remained scoreless for the first two periods.

“We certainly wore out the Cambridge goalie’s chest,” said Haddaway with a chuckle. “We kept shooting right at him, so it was a struggle to put it past him.”

It was only in the third period that the Kings were able to get on the board when forward Jarred Parent, with an assist by Andrew Smith, buried the puck behind Ruhl on the power play. Following Parent’s goal, Elmira seemed to gain some momentum when Tyson LeBlanc (Sonnenburg, Spencer MacCormack) notched a shorthanded goal.

But despite the late push, the Hawks were able to ride out the storm to salvage the win.

Next up for the Kings is an even bigger challenge. Elmira plays against the two top-scoring teams in the Midwestern Conference, the Brantford Golden Eagles on Saturday and the Waterloo Siskins at home at on Sunday, a 2 p.m. matinee.

“It will be a great test, a real challenge for us to bounce back after losing two tough games this weekend,” said Haddaway. “But I am looking forward to it.”

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