After tasting some success in last year’s playoffs, the Sugar Kings will look for a promising start to their 40th season tomorrow (Sunday) when they host the Kitchener Dutchmen in their season opener at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena.
“At the end of last season, our expectations were going to be a lot higher this year, and certainly they are,” says head coach Geoff Haddaway.The Kings finished last year with a 20-26-5 record, but really hit their stride in the playoffs and eliminated the Listowel Cyclones in six games, before being eliminated by the defending champion Brantford Golden Eagles in a hard-fought six-game series.
And Haddaway recognizes this season is going to be another battle.
“Four months have gone since then, and we’ve lost some significant players. [Riley] Sonnenburg, Tyson LeBlanc, and Michael Therrien. Never mind guys like Jeff Zippel and other character guys. We’re going to have a tough time replacing their goals.”
The team may still have some questions up front, but Haddaway feels the strength of this year’s squad will be from the goal out.
“We’ve got seven defense who I think are going to be above-average Junior-B defenseman. And we’re going to rely on [goaltender] Nick Horrigan to help keep us in games. Right now he’s got a lot of confidence, and I think he thinks he can be a number one goalie in this league.”
Horrigan has displayed that confidence throughout the preseason, posting a 2-1 record along with a sparkling 0.80 GAA and .967 save percentage.
The Kings wrapped up their preseason during the Labour Day weekend with a 5-2 loss to St. Mary’s, and a 6-0 victory over Owen Sound to even their record at 6-6.
The Kings seemed to round into shape in that final game, and Haddaway says he and his coaching staff have begun to find line combinations that click. The Kings outshot the Greys 47-19 in that game, and dominated much of the play.
“It’s nice to get a win and get some success, and maybe it helps with confidence, but that being said we know the next time we play Owen Sound that game doesn’t count, and we start fresh.”
Optimism is high heading into the new season, a feeling that is shared throughout the league. At the start of a new season, anything is possible with everyone tied in the standings.
“Everyone’s team is good right now,” Haddaway says with a laugh, “and that’s the exciting part. Those guys are excited about those challenges, and we’re excited about the season starting on Sunday.”
The puck drops on the 2010 season at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena. For tickets call Marilyn Craig at (519) 669-8804.