It was the Elmira Sugar Kings’ weekend. Three days, three games, three wins.
The odds were against the boys in green to continue the streak that began back on Dec. 4 with a win over Brantford, as the team was playing with a shortened bench due to injuries and players away completing their university finals.
The first game of the weekend saw the Kings on the road against Owen Sound, where they skated away with a 9-2 win over the Greys Dec. 9.
Elmira started out strongly in the first period, scoring three unanswered goals off the sticks of Michael Hasson, Riley Sonnenburg and Mitch Dunning.
The second frame began with the same intensity as Andrew Smith and Brett Preistap scored two goals before the seven-minute mark of the period, giving the Kings a 5-0 lead.
During a power play at 8:05 with Elmira’s Lukas Baleshta in the box for a high sticking, the Greys finally potted one against netminder Justis Husak. The Kings responded seconds later, however, with a Pat McKelvie/Will Cook combination that beat Greys’ goalie Paul Boyadjian at 8:26. Elmira forward Brady Campbell would then score his first of two for the night with a minute left in the period to give the visitors a comfortable 7-1 lead.
After the second intermission the Kings tallied two more goals, while the Greys managed to get one back. Elmira forwards Campbell and Sonnenburg both added to the total.
“We came out of there with out any injuries or suspensions so we were happy. We just rolled line and lead every play and the guys came out strong in the first period and set the tempo right off the bat and then we had some fun,” said head coach Dean DeSilva.
The next night the Kings faced the Brantford Golden Eagles at the Wayne Gretzky Sport Centre. The Eagles were looking for revenge after losing 4-1 to the Kings the weekend before. It was not to be, however, as Elmira came away 2-1 victors.
“It was a long game and there was not a lot of flow to it but it was a very gutsy win on our part and I was very proud with how the team played,” said DeSilva. “All weekend we were short and the guys came in with a gutsy effort but to his credit, Bryce O Hagan kept the game close, it could have been a different game if he was not in the net for the Eagles. He was outstanding and made about four or five great saves that kept his team in the game. Over all it was a solid team effort from the get go and I was happy with the win.”
Elmira did not waste anytime putting points on the board, with Smith scoring in the opening minute of the period. Baleshta collected the assist. The rest of the period would see action down at both ends of the ice but neither team would be able to capitalize.
The game was a hard-fought battle between the two teams who have been vying for second place in the division for the last few weeks.
Hasson would add another point to Elmira’s lead in the second frame. Brantford was unable to score until the third when Ryan Blunt finally beat goalie Nick Horrigan, who finished the night with 38 saves to preserve the 2-1 win.
Finally back on home ice Dec. 11, the Kings played unwelcoming host to the Cambridge Winter Hawks by posting a 5-1 win, laying claim to second place in the Mid-Western Conference just behind the Stratford Cullitons.
The Kings kept the weekend trend alive by scoring first against their opponent when Baleshta fed Smith who in turn found Campbell, allowing him to flick the puck over the stick of Cambridge goaltender Lucas Michalski at 7:55 of the opening frame.
The period would end with a Cook-Sonnenburg-Priestap combination that once again found the back of the net, giving the Kings a 2-0 lead.
An obviously tired Elmira squad took to the ice in the second frame and was found flatfooted as the Winter Hawks scored to bring the game within one: Cambridge captain Ryan Clarke fired a shot from beyond the blue line past Horrigan, who was caught off guard for the moment.
Elmira struggled with their passes and stick control for the rest of the period while Cambridge continued to keep the pressure going but where unable to get anything past Horrigan. The period would end 2-1.
“Our guys were tired, their legs were heavy in the second period and Cambridge should be given credit for their work in the second period: they came out and did what they had to do and we managed to hang on. (Horrigan) was very solid for us and during the intermission we just reminded the guys that we needed to play a full 60 minutes of hockey,” said DeSilva.
The Kings were rejuvenated in the third and managed to score three unanswered goals off the sticks of Priestap (his second of the night), Sonnenburg and Smith.
“We managed to win this game on guts and hard work and even though we were tired we pulled it off,” said DeSilva. “Three weeks ago I am not sure we would have had the results we got this weekend but that shows you the corner we have turned and the players have battled through a lot of things and they are stepping up and doing what they need to do. We had a goal to come out of the weekend with three wins and we needed to do the little things to do that and the guys responded and everyone did their job.”
The home game was the Sugar Kings’ annual teddy bear toss and the organization managed to collect a few hundred stuffed animals for less fortunate children and hospitals in the area.
This weekend, the Kings are in Stratford Friday to take on the first-place Cullitons before returning to the friendly confines of the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m. to face off against the Kitchener Dutchmen. The Kings will be playing their last game of 2011 on the road when they head to Kitchener to face the Dutchmen once again on Dec. 20.