Coach wants to see better effort, more discipline as team starts ramping up to playoffsOutworked and outplayed last Sunday, the 4-0 loss to the Stratford Cullitons was a bitter pill to swallow for the Elmira Sugar Kings, who were looking to build on a win against Cambridge and tough OT battle with Kitchener, the league’s top team, in the previous week.
A lack of discipline was worrisome, but mostly it was a case of missing effort on the side of the home boys at the Dan Snyder Arena.
“We got outworked. They were first man to the puck, they were winning battles. They had lots of scoring chances; they did a good job of capitalizing on them,” said head coach Jeff Flanagan.
The visitors struck early, scoring two in just over seven minutes and putting the Kings back on their heels. The team would have its chances later, but failed to take advantage of them, said Flanagan.
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Clearly off their game after the Cullitons scored at 4:56 and 7:14, the Kings ran into some penalty trouble, bringing back the coach’s longstanding concerns about his players’ ability to control their emotions. That’s especially important heading into the playoffs where it’s all about making sacrifices for the good of the team.
“We took some steps back today. We’re never worried when players take hard-work penalties, battling in a corner or that kind of thing. But if we are taking cross-checking, or tripping or slashing and that type of thing, those are penalties that players … are in control of. We took some penalties tonight that weren’t smart and they weren’t necessary, which then takes away momentum,” Flanagan said.
He added, “We upped our compete level a little bit; I wouldn’t say that we were really good but we did come back and try to make a game of it. It wasn’t enough.”
The battle that ensued in the final frame gave the Kings a few more chances but all shots on net were easily blocked by Stratford goalie Nicholas Caldwell, who made 28 saves en route to the shutout.
“We took penalties during our power plays, which took our advantage away – less chance of scoring as well as momentum changing. Then in the third period we worked but none of our shots were in the scoring area, and when they were, they were easy shots for him [Caldwell] to stop.”
Even here the usual fire in the Culliton-Kings rivalry was missing. The teams split 12 offenses and 24 minutes in penalties.
Stratford’s final goal came at 2:50 of the third, when Culliton Ryker Killins (Deven Kropf) scored on Hayden Neuman, who stopped 25 shots in the game.
With seven games left in the regular season Stratford’s victory pushed Elmira’s team to seven loses as Kings hold on to second place in the standings. After Thursday’s battle with Brantford, the Kings face Waterloo Siskins tonight at 7 p.m. on the road before their home game with Listowel Cyclones on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Sunday’s game will see the Kings “Pink the Rink” for a second year. Where last year’s fundraiser benefited anti-bullying campaigns, money from this year’s outing will go towards the Weekend to End Women’s Cancer walk. The team will wear pink jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game.