It was one step forward, two steps back for the Elmira Sugar Kings last weekend, as the beleaguered team put an end to their seven-game losing streak on Friday, but suffered a pair of tough losses on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s becoming an all-too-familiar refrain for the Elmira team: with seven players still recovering from injuries, the Kings struggled to compete with the Listowel Cyclones and the Stratford Cullitons.
“It’s always tough when you have seven or eight players out of a lineup,” said head coach Dean DeSilva. “I’m not trying to use that as an excuse, but if you take any other team, and you take three of their top six defencemen and four of their top ten forwards out of the lineup, the teams are going to have holes to fill.”But the news wasn’t all bad for the Kings. Facing the Cyclones February 1 at the Listowel Arena, the diminished lineup scored a welcome 5-4 victory.
Listowel scored first at 1:56, but Elmira’s Jake Weidner landed a goal at 3:09, assisted by Adam Brubacher and Cash Seraphim. Listowel scored again at 8:36, and 22 seconds into the second period, but from that point on, Elmira dominated the game.
Scores in the second period came from Brandon Stewart (1:40) and Cash Seraphim (19:46), while the third period began with another goal from Seraphim (25 seconds in), followed by Zac Coulter (16:42). Listowel managed one last goal at 19:00, but the Kings finished the game with a win.
“You lose seven in a row and it seems every bounce is going against you. Friday, we just had one of those games where we finally got a few bounces,” said DeSilva. “We got a big save from Hayden [Neuman, the goalie] when we needed it, and that certainly boosted the players’ morale, and we took some changes when we had the opportunity.
“We played a good road game – it’s a very, very tough building to play in because it’s so small.”
But hopes for a Sugar Kings comeback were dashed on Saturday, when the boys in green suffered a humiliating 13-1 loss to the Waterloo Siskins. From the time the puck dropped, it was clearly one of those nights, with Waterloo scoring six goals in the first period, three in the second, and four in the third. Elmira’s one and only goal came at 16:44 in the second period from Jaden Goatz (assisted by Cassidy Frey and Rob Kohli). And, if that weren’t bad enough, Elmira managed only half as many shots on net as their rivals – 33 to Waterloo’s 66.
“Saturday was a game where anything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” said DeSilva. “Every mistake we made ended up in the back of our net. Games like that, over a 51-game season, are going to happen. I think that’s probably the first one that we’ve had all year, and we’re going to walk away with a memory of that.
“If we meet Waterloo in the playoffs, that game will certainly be one that we’ll talk about a lot with the team. But if we don’t meet Waterloo in the playoffs, that’s a game that we’re going to just wipe out of our memory.”
The Kings performed better at Sunday’s home game against the Stratford Cullitons, but the 6-3 loss was nothing to write home about, either. The two teams were even in the first period: Stratford scored first at 14:02, and Elmira’s Mitch Wright countered 14 seconds later, with assists from Patrick McKelvie and Cash Seraphim.
But in the second period, Stratford racked up four goals, and with them a daunting lead. Elmira rebounded slightly with two more goals from Mitch Wright in the third period (at 0:14 and 16:59), but an extra goal from the Cullitons sealed their victory.
Despite the setbacks, DeSilva remains confident his team has what it takes to triumph in the playoffs. “I still truly believe that if we get guys back, we’re going to be a tough team to play in the playoffs,” he said.
“Teams are laughing at us right now; teams are making comments about us right now; we know that, and we’re fine with that. We just want to fly under the radar, we’ll start to get some bodies back, and as long as we keep the work ethic up, we’ll be a tough team.”
The Kings now have a week to regroup before facing the Brampton Bombers on home ice on Sunday in a special fundraising match for anti-bullying initiatives. The puck drops at 2 p.m.