Dressed in camouflage jerseys, the Elmira Sugar Kings were ready for a battle against the Cambridge Winter Hawks Jan. 22 after suffering a 5-4 defeat to the Guelph Hurricanes the night before. Playing in their annual Support Our Troops game, the Kings scored four unanswered goals against the visiting Hawks en route to a 4-1 win. “I think the game was a typical Elmira Sugar King hockey game. We were five strong on the ice, we were tough in battles, and we stuck to our game point and I believe we have turned the corner,” said head coach Dean DeSilva.
The Hawks were the first on the board when Darcy Meyer scored two minutes into the first period on the powerplay beating Elmira netminder Nick Horrigan with a chip over the glove. It would be their only goal of the afternoon. The Kings were eager to fight back, evening the score before heading to the room when Lukas Baleshta scored his ninth goal of the campaign at 15:41.
Cash Seraphim, who had just been released from the penalty box after a roughing call, picked up the rubber and entered the Hawks’ end, finding Scott Nagy on the right of the goals. Nagy circled around the net and quickly fed the puck to Baleshta, who fired a one-timer high over the stick of Cambridge goaltender Lucas Machalski.
“The turning point was (Seraphim) and his penalty where he jumped in for somebody on his team and the guys rallied around that. For a 16-year-old to do that, it is amazing. (Seraphim) has come a long way and the team really picked up after that, especially for the guys sitting on the bench, and our momentum just built from there and we scored shortly after,” said DeSilva.
Returning to the ice after the first intermission, forward Brett Catto extended the Kings’ lead while scoring his first goal in Elmira green just over two minutes into the period. Wade Pfeffer got the puck up to Michael Hasson at the blue line. Hasson then made a cross-ice pass to Catto who snapped it past the goaltender. Brady Campbell would score one more just under three minutes later from Seraphim and Pfeffer at 18:18 to make it 3-1.
The third frame saw the Kings starting shorthanded after Clayton Greer was given a penalty in the dying seconds of the second period on an interference call. Penalties were in style, as both teams came at each other hard in the third, clocking a combined 56 minutes in the box.
“I don’t know what it is that gets these two teams going. I think since a lot of these guys grew up together and play together; we have a lot of Cambridge kids on our team that there just seems to be something that happens when our two teams meet,” said DeSilva.
The Kings put any hopes of a comeback by the Hawks to bed by dominating the third as they outshot Cambridge 11-4 and scored once more with the extra man. Hasson collected his 14th of the season on the power play at 15:51 from Riley Sonnenburg and Nagy for the 4-1 final.
Horrigan stopped 25 of 26 shots for the win, while Machalski stopped 48 of 52 for the Hawks.
Emotions ran high during the game and the Kings need to be able to put them in check before the team starts its playoff run in a month’s time.
“This has been a problem all season, it is tough to pull them back because they are trying to play a high pressure, high tempo game and to use our depth and we want guys to finish their checks, we are trying to teach them to hit sticks on puck, but using their shoulders their sticks come up and emotions start running high,” said DeSilva.
“We talk about it and work on it and we are going to have to try and control it because we know come the playoffs we are going to have to keep that in check but if we use our depth and keep pushing and pushing the pace and the tempo we will get the results we want to see.”
The Support Our Troops game raised more than $5,500, with an auction held after the game in which each of the game-worn jerseys were sold off to the highest bidder. All the proceeds went to the London Military Family Resource Centre. The organization’s aim is to enhance the quality of life of military families in southwestern Ontario.
This weekend, the Kings are in Listowel Friday night to face the Cyclones before returning home Sunday to welcome the Stratford Cullitons. The puck drops at 7 p.m.