After coughing up a two-goal lead against the Kitchener Dutchmen on Sunday afternoon, the Kings managed to emerge victorious in the shootout, 4-3.
Josh Woolley scored the shootout winner and Nick Horrigan made 25 saves – along with blanking all five Dutchmen in the shootout – to seal the victory.
“We’ve only had two shootouts this season, both against Kitchener and we lost the first one, so it was nice to turn the tables,” said head coach Geoff Haddaway following the team’s win, their second victory in a row after enduring a tough four-game losing streak.
It was the Kings’ first game in a week, and the rust showed early on. Kitchener struck first while shorthanded when Harrison Scarfone forced his way through two defenders and jammed the puck home against Horrigan at 7:15 of the first.
Elmira responded a little under nine minutes later when Brady Campbell scored a shorthanded marker of his own, assisted by Jarred Parent and Jordan Benton at 16:07. Towards the end of the period the Kings appeared to shake the early rust, finishing the first with a 15-11 edge in shots.
“You almost take a period to get your legs and get back into it a little bit,” said Haddaway of the slow start and the week between games, adding he was happy with the way the team responded in the second.
In that second period, Elmira built a two-goal cushion on the strength of a Brennon Pearce shot that just eluded the blocking arm of Kitchener’s Duncan Long, from Andrew Smith and Brad Kraus at 8:45, and a beautiful powerplay goal from Smith at 14:35 from Jordan Benton and Josh Woolley. Smith picked up the rebound from Benton’s point shot and snapped it top corner to make it 3-1.
The Dutchmen wouldn’t go quietly, however, and Brendan Woods cut the deficit to one with less than two minutes left in the period.
In the third, the Kings were given ample opportunity to re-establish their two-goal lead – including a couple of five-on-three powerplays – but couldn’t capitalize. In the end it cost them, because just as Kitchener’s Ted Anstett stepped out of the penalty box for serving a coach bench minor, a pass from teammate Paul Sergi ended up on his stick and Anstett tied the game at three with only 6:04 left in the game.
Overtime solved nothing and the teams headed to the shootout. Horrigan stopped all five Dutchmen shooters, while Woolley ended the game with a low wrist shot to the blocker side.
The game lacked any offensive flow, as the referee’s called everything and both teams racked up the penalties, particularly in the third period and overtime. Elmira finished a dismal 1 for 20 on the powerplay, while Kitchener went 0 for 12.
“We had a good week at practice, but our powerplay really struggled and we worked on it quite a bit during the week,” said Haddaway, who also agreed that maybe the guys were caught thinking too much on the ice, rather than playing hockey and going by their instincts – especially in the third.
“Our five-on-three has to be better. If you have a couple of them in a game you have to score, and we didn’t. That hurt our cause for sure.”
The Kings managed to find a way to win, however, and will need to do more of the same this weekend, which will be a busy one. After travelling to Owen Sound Friday, Elmira heads south to Cambridge tonight (Saturday) at 7 p.m. The Greys are in town for a rematch Sunday. Game time at the Woolwich Memorial Centre is 7 p.m.
Haddaway sees the busy schedule as a positive for the team.
“These last three weeks we’ve played Sunday-Sunday-Sunday, and for me I think three (games) in three (nights) is easier. From a physical point of view it might be tougher on the guys, but mentally it’s easier to play so many games, because we’re going to be going right back at it again the next night no matter what happens.”
For any Kings fans with tickets left over for home games, Sunday’s match against Owen Sound will be one of the final chances fans get to see them play at home before the playoffs. After Sunday, their one remaining home game is set for Feb. 20 against Listowel at 7 p.m.
The Kings remain in fourth place in the Midwestern Conference, trailing first-place Stratford by 10 points but have four games in hand, and are only four points behind Brantford for second. They trail Guelph by just three points for third.