There are wins, and then there are wins. Last weekend, the Elmira Sugar Kings demonstrated the difference, first with a 3-2 overtime win against the Guelph Hurricanes on December 7, then with a decisive 8-2 victory over the Brantford 99ers on December 8.
The difference between the two games, according to head coach Jeff Flanagan? Effort.
“It was a full 60-minute effort [on Sunday], and Saturday we didn’t have that. We were kind of on an emotional roller-coaster.” Against the 99ers, however, “We went straight through. We took a lot of penalties and continued to battle through it, and did a decent job on the penalty-kill.”Facing the Hurricanes on Guelph ice, the Kings outshot their rivals 42-28, but only managed to make it on the board in the third period. Guelph scored the first point at 17:10 in the opening period, with Elmira’s Brett Parsons, assisted by Rob Kohli and, Jaden Goetz, finally netting a goal at 2:27 in the third. Guelph countered at 8:41, but Adam Campagnolo (Steven Jakiela, Alex Mutton) tied things up at 15:12.
The tie was broken in overtime, with Elmira’s Brad Kobryn (Kohli) landing the final goal at 2:09.
“We played really well in the first period, then hit a bunch of posts and crossbars and couldn’t score, and Guelph really came back. Our effort was decent, but it wasn’t as good as Sunday. But we found a way to win in overtime – Brad Korbyn scored a big goal to finish it off for us.”
The Kings enjoyed a stronger win on home ice Sunday over the Brantford 99ers, the last-place team in the conference. Goals came fast and furious in the first period: Mutton (Kohli, Jakiela) at 8:50; Jakiela (Kohli, Justin Cooke) at 12:55; Mitch Wright (Kobryn, Adam Brubacher) at 16:49; and Brubacher (Zac Coulter, Craig Johnson) at 17:53.
The second period started off well for the Kings, with Campagnolo (Mutton, Brubacher) scoring a goal 38 seconds in, but eight penalties took a toll on the team. The 99ers briefly rebounded with goals at 7:05 and 15:51.
“The penalties we took I think are really the reason we had that lag,” said Flanagan. “I think we had three 5-on-3s in a row – it just kept coming and coming and coming. That makes a big difference and takes away the momentum for us, but the guys fought through it.”
If the Kings hit a snag in the second period, they staged a comeback in the third. Kobryn (Wright, Austin Fischer) buried the puck at 4:17, and two late goals – by Cash Seraphim (Coulter, Johnson) at 18:37 and Wright (Mutton, Campagnolo) at 19:14 – put two more nails in Brantford’s coffin.
When asked for a takeaway from the games, Flanagan said the team would try to keep out of the penalty box.
“We’ve got to find a way to play a tough but clean game at the same time,” he said.
In Listowel Friday night to face the Cyclones, the Kings return to the WMC Sunday for the second half of a home-and-home weekend. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.