With a pair of victories last weekend, the Elmira Sugar Kings moved to within one point of the Stratford Cullitons and the St. Catharines Falcons for the overall GOJHL lead.
Brady Campbell recorded a hat trick Sunday to pace the Kings to a 5-2 win over the Kitchener Dutchmen on home ice at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena.
On the road the night before the Kings faced the Waterloo Siskins, adding two more points to their tally with a 6-2 win.
Head coach Dean DeSilva was pleased with the performance against his former team, the Siskins, noting plenty improvements in his players, many of whom got off of the game plan following the 14-game win streak that opened the season.
“We had a better power play during the game in Waterloo and we moved the puck around smarter and it is good to see the guys are starting to understand that we need to play as a team,” said DeSilva.
Brent Preistap, Cass Frey and Andrew Smith each scored in the first frame against Waterloo and the scoring did not stop after the first intermission, with Michael Hasson, Smith and Brady Campbell adding three more during the second period.
The Siskins managed to slip two pass Kings netminder Nick Horrigan, who would go on to save 23 shots for the game winner.
At home on Sunday the Kings potted the only goal of the first period against Kitchener when Hasson, fed by Priestap, fired a high shot past goaltender Nathan Perry at 6:10.
Elmira came out flying in the second frame, scoring within seconds of the puck drop and catching the Dutchmen asleep in their own end. Forward Devon Wagner entered the Kitchener end, passing to Campbell who fired a wrist shot low underneath the glove of Perry to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
Kitchener rebounded when Brett Clampitt slipped one past Elmira goalie Justis Husak, who had an outstanding night saving 27 of 29 shots on net.
“(Husak) is coming in and doing what we want him to do as a goalie; both he and Horrigan don’t have to be great but they have to be good and stop that shot when we need it,” said DeSilva. “Both of them are making that save when we need it, and that certainly picks up the bench. Husak is pushing Horrigan. We know (Horrigan) is our number-one, but Husak is pushing him and that is going to make Horrigan better and ultimately our team better as well.”
Husak said he feels comfortable with the organization even though he has only been with the club for over a little over a month, having been acquired Oct. 20 from Waterloo.
“Last year my role was to stop everything but this year my role is to make the saves I have to make and I have a great team backing me up and I know our team can put the puck in the net which allows me to have a lot more confidence in them and that takes the stress off me and that is producing an overall better game,” said Husak after the game.
In the closing minutes of the second period Campbell would score another goal, with Justin Cooke and Smith claiming the assists to send the Kings back into the room up 3-1.
After the second intermission, Elmira added two more, including Campbell’s third of the night. The Dutchmen would score once more during a power play that had Hasson sitting in the box for a roughing call.
Even though the team came away with two wins over the weekend, DeSilva still feels his boys need to pick up their game and start playing a full 60 minutes of hockey.
“We are always happy with the points and there are a lot of positives we saw in the two games this weekend but there is still a lot of laziness that we saw too,” he said. “There are a few things that we still need to do better, but over all I am happy with the effort we have had in the last couple of weeks. It is tough playing some of these other teams that are a bit lower in the standings as we can get away with some of the stuff, but we have to tighten up on our powerplays and play with our heads up.”
The Kings have been taking fewer penalties in their last few games, something DeSilva attributes to an awareness of the cost of taking a penalty after the whistle.
“They’ve been read the riot act and for the most part the team has taken note of it and it seems to be working. Emotions still run high during games and the guys need to learn to play with their emotions because come playoff time playing within emotions is going to be key.”
The month of Movember has ended and fans will notice players and coaches will be looking a little less like Tom Selleck and more like themselves. The club has raised more than $5,100 in support of prostate cancer research but donations are still being accepted at www.movember.com until Dec. 8.
This weekend, the Kings are on the road to face the Listowel Cyclones Friday before returning home
Sunday to take on the Brantford Golden Eagles. Game time is 7 p.m.