Team continues to score plenty of goals in the early going, but coach likes the defensive improvements he’s seen
Another week, another pair of wins for the Sugar Kings. But while the Elmira team took a pair of easy victories last week, beating the Brantford 99ers 6-0 on October 10 and the Strathroy Rockets 4-1 on October 12, head coach Jeff Flanagan still sees plenty of room for improvement.
“I think on Thursday we really played just OK,” Flanagan admitted. “We didn’t bring a full effort. Brantford’s a young team, and we probably didn’t stick to the systems as we should. I don’t think we were as strong as we should have been in winning battles or finishing on chances in front of the net.”
Still, a shutout victory is nothing to sneeze at. The Kings set the tone 86 seconds into the game as Cash Seraphim (assisted by Mitch Wright and David Savery) scored the first goal. There would be no more scoring until the second period, when Brad Kobryn (Zac Coulter, Rob Kohli) buried the biscut at 3:33, Savery (Brett Parsons, Matt Harding) scored at 6:09, and Seraphim (Parsons, Adam Brubacher) landed a goal at 17:36.
Another pair of goals in the third period – by Brennon Pearce (Kohli) at 13:21 and Coulter (Austin Fischer, Cass Frey) at 14:42 – brought the score to 6-0. Elmira also outshot their rivals 49-27.
“Hayden Neuman, our goaltender, played excellently,” said Flanagan. “We gave up some pretty good opportunities in the defensive zone for Brantford to get a chance to score. Hayden was there to keep the puck out of the net.”
If the team was “kind of up and down” against the 99ers, then the October 12 match against the Rockets was “our most complete game of the season, from a perspective of work ethic and sticking to our plan,” said Flanagan.
Elmira scored two goals in quick succession at the end of the first period: Seraphim (Brubacher, Coulter) at 18:59, and Brubacher at 19:53. The momentum continued at the start of the second, with Wright (Campagnolo, Savery) scoring at 1:30. Wright also scored Elmira’s last goal of the night, at 17:03 in the second.
Strathroy managed their only goal 29 seconds into the third, but were unable to match Elmira’s effort, with the score resting at 4-1.
“On Saturday, we just brought a better effort,” said Flanagan. “The guys were sticking to their jobs, which we talked about with some players – how they can improve their game before. So I think it’s just a natural part of the growth of our team as we learn to play with each other and learn what it takes to be a good hockey team.”
Where are the areas for improvement?
“The systems can always be worked on – in one situation, the players should be in this position, or in another situation, they should be in this position. The main thing probably is learning how to contain in the defensive zone: how to go in for a check and contain the player, and then come out with the puck on our stick, get out of the zone, and attack offensively.”
He added that the team’s defensive play has improved of late.
“Over the last couple of months, we’ve been giving up too many shots, and it’s due to a number of things: not winning the battles where we should, and just not being quite in the right position a lot of the time. In the last couple of weeks we’ve been working a lot on it, and we’ve gotten better.
“By no means are we close to where we should be, but we’ve certainly improved.”
The Kings (11-2) are back on home ice at the Woolwich Memorial Centre for a matinee on Sunday against the Waterloo Siskins. The puck drops at 2 p.m.