Weekend sees Kings post a pair of convincing wins
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Weekend sees Kings post a pair of convincing wins

Elmira Sugar Kings forward Mitch Wright takes a shot during the club’s 7-6 victory over the Cambridge Winter Hawks September 28 at the Dan Snyder Arena. [Scott Barber / The Observer]

Team runs record to 5-1 with victories over Brampton Bombers and Stratford Cullitons, but coach sees room for improvement in his young charges

Elmira’s Jaden Goetz scored a hat-trick against the Cullitons on September 22. The Kings beat the Stratford team 9-3 following a September 20 victory over the Brampton Bombers.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Elmira’s Jaden Goetz scored a hat-trick against the Cullitons on September 22. The Kings beat the Stratford team 9-3 following a September 20 victory over the Brampton Bombers. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
The Elmira Sugar Kings continued their strong start to the season, posting another pair of decisive wins last weekend against the Brampton Bombers (5-2) and the Stratford Cullitons (9-3).

While the Elmira team has lost only one of its six games thus far, head coach Jeff Flanagan said that last weekend showed the still-emerging team at both its best and its worst.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster,” said Flanagan of his team’s performance at Brampton. “We played really well at points, and not so well at other points.”

He continued, “I think it’s just that learning process that a team goes through when you’re trying to find your stride. It’s the same with any team at any level – some nights you’re on, and other nights you have to fight to stay in the game mentally.”

There may have been ups and downs, but the stats looked pretty good for the Kings by the end of the weekend. Facing the Bombers on September 20, the team set the tone with two goals in quick succession in the first period – at 12:56 by Rob Kohli and 13:32 by Brennon Pearce. The Bombers countered just before the buzzer, landing their first goal at 19:50.

In the second period, both teams managed 11 shots on each other’s nets, but only Elmira managed to score – at 19:21 by Adam Campagnolo.

Brampton gave Elmira a run for its money, sinking a second goal just 19 seconds into period three, but Elmira recovered with Mitch Wright scoring at 12:30. Zac Coulter managed the last goal of the night on an empty net with just five seconds to go, bringing the score to 5-2.

Few teams could ask for a more auspicious opening than the Kings managed on home ice on Sunday, scoring four goals against the Cullitons within the first five minutes: at 1:09 by Craig Johnson; at 2:59 and 3:12 by Jaden Goetz; and at 4:44 by Cass Frey.

But after this early triumph, the rest of the first period wasn’t nearly so kind. As tension rose between the teams, frequent on-ice fighting led to numerous penalties (10 for the Kings, 16 for the Cullitons), and the Cullitons got on the board with two goals before the buzzer (at 14:06 and 19:16). Between periods, the team reevaluated its strategy.

“We had a good lead in the first period, and Stratford was looking for a way to get back in the game,” said Flanagan of the roughhousing. “Good on them, because they got under our skin and were really tough on us, and we ended up taking a lot of penalties that were unnecessary.

“But after the first period, our guys really recognized the issue and what they needed to do to fix it.” Indeed, the teams suffered only three penalties combined for the remainder of the game.

Elmira regained its footing in the second period, scoring at 4:39 (by David Savery), 5:18 (Goetz, notching a hat-trick) at 18:36 (Campagnolo).

The Cullitons tried to stay afloat with a goal at 4:14 in the third period, but Elmira’s Alex Mutton struck back with a goal at 4:47, and Wright brought the score to 9-3 at 15:56.

“Because of the way the game went, we didn’t become complacent, from a work-ethic standpoint,” said Flanagan of the team’s early lead. “Obviously our emotions were out of control, and that allowed Stratford – who have some very good players – to be able to sneak back into the game.

“After the first period, our team kept control of their emotions, and made sure they made smart plays – not getting into situations where it would cause us to get penalties.”

After a rematch in Stratford Friday night, the Kings return to home ice Sunday to take on the Guelph Hurricanes. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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