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It was a great weekend for the Kings

Chad Herron, who led the team with two goals, gets tangled up with a Culliton player. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

The Elmira Sugar Kings were put to the test last weekend, and they passed with flying colours. The team, which is currently in fourth place of the GOJHL Midwestern Conference, won all three of its games.

The result has coach Geoff Haddaway optimistic about the team’s conditioning when playoff time rolls around.
“Anytime you can play three games in a weekend and win all three, you have to be pleased,” he said. “But when you’re playing as much as we are, all the players get a good workout. It tests the depth of a team, which mimics what happens in playoffs.”

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the team. The Kings have played eight games in the past 15 days, not to mention the additional practices and the travel time that comes with away games.

“It’s been a very strange schedule so far this year,” said Haddaway. “But I think the guys have handled it quite well.”

Last weekend began with a trip to Owen Sound Nov. 19, where the Kings didn’t let the cheers from the Greys’ fans faze them one bit. The trounced the home team 9-4.

The first period started out with fairly even play – Josh Woolley was the only player able to notch a goal and it came within the game’s final minute.But both teams stepped up their games in the second, scoring four times apiece.

In the third frame, the Kings ran away with the game, scoring an additional four goals.

FINISHING 3-FOR-3 The happy Sugar Kings gave each other a pat on the back after a game-winning goal against the Cambridge Winter Hawks Nov. 21. The Kings won 5-2.

“It was good to start out the weekend with those two points,” said Haddaway. “With a game like that, you just hope you can carry that momentum through the rest of the weekend, and we were able to.”

On Saturday night, the Kings played the Waterloo Siskins at the WMC and bulldozed the visiting team 6-2 in a lopsided match.

The Siskins were only able to put 23 shots on net in comparison to Elmira’s 50. The Kings also made use of the man-advantage, going two-for-three on the power play.

In the first period, Elmira hit the ice fast and steamrolled Waterloo. The home team took 20 shots, only letting the Siskins have three. They netted two goals for their effort, the first on the power play by Andrew Smith and the second by Woolley.

The pressure from the Kings kept on coming, with another 15 shots in the second. Josh MacDonald hit the back of the net just 15 seconds into the frame.

Waterloo’s efforts to make a game of it had some success in the middle frame, as they were able to close the gap to 3-1.

In the third period, the play was much more even … at least to start with. The Siskins gave their fans a glimmer of hope with their second marker shortly after the puck dropped, but that was as close as it would get. The fire power of the line of Brad Kraus, Ryan Clarkson, and Brady Campbell soon secured the win for Elmira, as the three of them combined for eight points, scoring three goals in 11 minutes to give Elmira an insurmountable four-goal lead.

“The easy thing to do is to look at the shot clock and get confident,” said Haddaway. “But they don’t give you any points for shots. It can hurt a team psychologically if you rely on that, but we didn’t panic. We did the opposite: we dug a bit deeper and we had a really solid third period.”

The Kings were back on home ice the following night, this time to face the Cambridge Winter Hawks, who finished on the short end of a 5-2 tally.

Elmira was the better team in this match-up, but it took all three periods

to prove it.

The Kings got off to a tough start and didn’t seem ready to play during the first period as the Winter Hawks netted two early goals. This prompted the Elmira coaches to pull Matthew Smith from the net and put in Nick Horrigan for the remainder of the game. That was the last time the Cambridge cheering section was heard from, as they played the rest of the game one step behind.

Elmira was determined to crawl back and subsequently threw 20 shots on net in this first frame. With a goal from Jonathan Rizzo on a feed from Jarred Parent and Woolley, the Kings managed to bring the score to 2-1 before heading into the dressing room.

The Kings continued to press in the middle frame. Brady Campbell (Kraus, Clayton Greer) tied it up at two.

Despite a parade of Hawks to the penalty box, Elmira was unable to capitalize, leaving the score knotted at 2-2 after 40 minutes.

In the third, the Kings maintained excellent puck possession, playing most of the period in Cambridge’s zone.

They forced several open-ice turnovers, leading to the game winner (Lukas Baleshta) and an insurance goal from Brad Kraus. Desperately, the Winter Hawks pulled their goalie, giving Baleshta the opportunity to score another goal on the empty net, leaving a frustrated Cambridge team in the dust.

“Playing that often can be a challenge mentally as well as physically, especially that third game,” said Haddaway.

“But they love being on the ice. That’s why they signed up for hockey when they were five years old and it’s why they still do it. They love playing.”

The team has another long weekend ahead of them, with matches on Friday, Saturday before returning home Sunday evenings to take on  the Brantford Golden Eagles. Game time is 7 p.m.

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