Coach sees a lesson in the importance of intensity in loss to Siskins, OT victory over DutchmenAs they wrapped up their 2013-14 season and just barely clinched second place in the conference, the Elmira Sugar Kings were at their best and their worst last weekend.
With a 4-2 loss against the Waterloo Siskins on February 22, and a 4-3 overtime victory against the Kitchener Dutchmen on February 23, the mixed results showcased both the team’s strengths and weaknesses as they head into the first round of playoffs against the Brampton Bombers.
“We have good goaltending, and we have players who are very skilled,” said head coach Jeff Flanagan. “Our vulnerability, I think, is our intensity level. If we don’t come with full, 100 per cent intensity, we’re not very good. Our guys know that, too – if we’re not coming out hard, we have a difficult time.”
In Waterloo on Saturday, the Siskins came out strong in the first period: with the Kings running into penalty trouble, the Siskins potted three goals in quick succession (at 16:57, 18:29, and 19:28). The Kings gained momentum in the second period, with Alex Mutton (assisted by Justin Cooke, Stephen Jakiela) and Brad Kobryn (Cooke, Craig Johnson) scoring at 3:39 and 7:19. But hopes of a comeback were dashed with a minute to go in the third period, when the Siskins scored another power play market to make it 4-2.
Things looked bleak for the Kings on home ice the next day: by the start of the third period, Elmira was behind 3-1 (only Brad Kobryn had scored, at 11:41 in the second period). And yet, the boys in green began an unlikely comeback when Adam Campagnolo (Kobryn, Mitch Wright) scored 40 seconds into the third, and Brodie Whitehead (Cash Seraphim, Wright) followed at 11:54. Whitehead (Kohli) scored again at 1:47 in overtime, eking out a 4-3 victory for the Kings.
“In the first period we weren’t great,” Flanagan admitted. “In the second, we got better, and in the third, they only had four shots. Our guys played really well, and how we wanted them to play.”
Last weekend’s games involved the top three teams in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Midwestern Conference, with Elmira landing in second place between Kitchener and Waterloo.
The Kings are likely to face one of their regional rivals if they advance in the playoffs.
“We wanted to make sure our guys knew that in order to be successful, we needed to do the things that we practiced all year well,” said Flanagan. “Not special plays – we played everybody with everybody, and had very few set lines tonight. Different centres, different wingers, just to drive home that it doesn’t matter who you’re playing with, you still have to do the little things to be successful.”
He added, “You still have to work hard; you have to win pucks; you have to get pucks through to the net. That was our message, and that’s what makes a team successful in the playoffs.”