The Elmira Sugar Kings returned from the Christmas holidays with a pair of victories last weekend, but any lingering holiday calm was quickly extinguished by these two hard-fought games.
In particular, the Kings battled to stay ahead in an unusually tense home game against the Caledonia Corvairs on January 6, which was marked by a slew of penalties on both sides.“I was actually surprised,” said head coach Dean DeSilva of the level of fighting in the game against Caledonia. “It’s always a battle between these two teams, and Caledonia decided they didn’t want to play hockey tonight, they wanted to go after our better players. And we still came out on top, so we can play that way too if they want.”
The Kings started the game off right with a goal by Brandon Stewart just 36 seconds in. Caledonia scored at 6:57, but the Kings finished the first period with three more goals: Jake Weidner at 7:40, Craig Johnson at 9:18 and Steven Jakiela at 18:53.
But by midway through the second period, Elmira’s 4-1 lead evaporated as Caledonia scored three goals in rapid succession at 4:29, 5:08 and 6:52. Craig Johnson managed to score a goal at 10:55, keeping the home team afloat with a 5-4 lead.
“You get a lead, and you take the foot off the gas,” said DeSilva of the team’s sluggish performance in the second period. “It doesn’t matter what we say to them, that’s just human nature. They kind of forget what they did to have that success in the first period, so it’s a learning experience.”
The Kings bounced back at the beginning of the third period, with Stewart scoring a quick goal at 0:42. Caledonia scored again at 2:00, but Patrick McKelvie and Zac Coulter made Elmira’s victory decisive at 11:10 and 13:10. Caledonia scored one more goal with just 18 seconds to go, but the Kings ultimately carried the day with an 8-6 win.
Tension between the two teams was visibly high throughout the game, with fights frequently erupting between players, especially in the third period. The game ground to a halt midway through the third period when Weidner suffered a hard hit against the boards, and struggled to rise from the ice.
“Other guys had to step up,” said DeSilva of the team’s morale after the injury. “And we did have guys step up, like Zac Coulter: number 18 had a hell of a game for us tonight. He stepped up. Pat McKelvie, he stepped up. Those guys certainly stepped up when the opportunities presented themselves, and that certainly gives us more options when they show they are capable of that.”
The Kings’ win against Caledonia came one day after a January 5 victory against the Waterloo Siskins. As the visiting team, the Kings beat Waterloo after overtime play by a narrow 3-2 score.
Things started poorly for the Kings as Waterloo scored at 2:01 in the first period, and then again at 17:28 of the second period. Despite 20 shots on net, the Sugar Kings entered the third period down 2-0.
But the Elmira squad mounted a strong late surge as Mitch Wright scored his team’s first goal at 7:38. Brady Campbell managed to plunk another one in the net at 17:20, just in time to tie the game 2-2. It didn’t take long for the Kings to seal a victory in overtime, with Brandon Stewart scoring at 3:39.
With these two victories behind them, the Kings are on the road this weekend. They face the Listowel Cyclones on Friday and go against the Brampton Bombers on Saturday before returning to the embrace of local fans Sunday to take on the Stratford Cullitons.