The Elmira Sugar Kings continued an uneven season with 6-4 loss at home against Waterloo on Sunday.
The Kings and Siskins faced off for the first time this season to the noise of a full house. Fans of the home side were subdued at 13:46 when the visitors drew first blood, as Jimmy Sopher put one past netminder Hayden Neuman with the Siskins on a power play.It was a rough night for Neuman, who would stop just 24 of the 30 shots he faced.
“We weren’t really out of it, but we weren’t really into it either. It’s tough playing catch-up all game but our guys battled and kept coming,” said Elmira coach Dean DeSilva after the game.
This season’s team is young, he explained, and a lot of work needs to be done, both with offensive tactics and forming a more aggressive defence.
“Unless you are going to play consistently it makes it tough. Were getting shots on net but we still have to be willing to go to those dirty parts of the ice and go to the front of the net and put pucks in through battles,” he said.
With this loss Sugar Kings remain fifth in the Midwestern Conference, one point below Listowel and Caledonia.
Players were getting “too fancy’ with their plays, DeSilva explained, and missed key opportunities to defend their territory.
The coach singled out Waterloo goalie P.J. Bridges as a difference-maker, stopping 40 of the 44 shots directed his way. Bridges came across the net on a shot in the first period that would have brought Elmira to within one.
“They [Siskins] came down and scored shorthanded on a bad bounce with our defenceman breaking a stick. That happens and we’ll have to learn from it,” DiSilva said.
Elmira did manage to find a chink in the netminder’s armour when Brandon Stewart scored one off the stick of Matt Harding at 18:22, sending the Kings back to the room down 2-1.
The second frame saw players from both teams well matched. Waterloo scored early, but Elmira replied quickly with goals from Jake Weidner and Matt Harding to tie it up at 3-3. Parity wouldn’t last long, as Waterloo scored again at 15:08 to go up 4-3. DeSilva pushed his squad for the equalizer before the second intermission, but to no avail.
“We just couldn’t seem to get that tying goal. Had we gotten that tying goal it might have been a little different.”
All hopes of tying things up after 40 minutes were shattered when the Siskins shot another past Neumann one second before the buzzer.
The Kings managed to score one more time in third before being finished off by Waterloo at 19:24 with the last goal of the night.
Though some players managed to shine on Sunday, DeSilva attributed the poor outcome to the team’s lack of focus and a need to work harder.
“A lot of work to do; [the season is] still young but two or three guys a lot of our guys didn’t show up consistently tonight. I thought Brady Campbell and Jake Weidner had good games and they bring it every night. Clay Greer played his heart out tonight from there it dropped off pretty quick,” he explained.
DeSilva said the young Kings are slowly improving in some areas of the game while still missing key components of play that would otherwise result in more goals for the team.
“Our forecheck is getting better; positionally we are getting better in some parts of the game, but we are not improving in our battles,” he said, adding that the team needs to work on defence as well as on basic tactics.
“We are not getting pucks out of our zone when we have an opportunity to, and that’s what makes it tough. To play hockey in your own zone, it’s all about hard work and pride, and right now guys are thinking breakaways instead of preventing goals. It’s not glamorous but they are going to have to do it to have success.”
The Kings face off against Guelph in a home game tomorrow (Sunday). The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.