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Kings bow out of playoffs in the seventh game

Kings goalie Hayden Neuman faced an onslaught from the Waterloo Siskins Sunday. The Waterloo team beat Elmira 3-1 in game seven of their playoff series.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Kings goalie Hayden Neuman faced an onslaught from the Waterloo Siskins Sunday. The Waterloo team beat Elmira 3-1 in game seven of their playoff series. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
In control of the series, with their fate in their own hands, the Sugar Kings were unable to finish off the down-but-not-out Waterloo Siskins. Elmira’s second-round foes came back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a game-seven showdown at the WMC that didn’t go the way the host team wanted it to.

They started their second round of playoffs with a loss. Then they hit their stride with three consecutive wins. All they needed was one more win to make it to the finals, but instead, the Kings suffered three losses to the Siskins – dashing their hopes of continuing the battle for the Sutherland Cup.

After handily defeating the Brampton Bombers in the first round of the GOJHL playoffs, the Kings certainly faced a greater challenge heading into the semifinals. While the Elmira team ranked ahead of Waterloo in the regular season standings (second and third place), the Siskins beat the Kings all six times they were matched before the playoffs.

How could the Kings win three games in a row, and then lose the same amount?

“I guess if I knew, we probably would be on the winning side tonight,” said head coach Jeff Flanagan after Sunday’s deciding game.

“I think the difference was, in the three games that we won, we had quality scoring chances, and in the last three games, we weren’t able to achieve those. We didn’t make east-west passes like we talked about; we didn’t always have a net-front presence; we had a few chances to score and they didn’t go it.”

However, he added, “Our guys worked extremely hard tonight, and we can’t ask for any more effort.”

Indeed, in both of their final two games, the Kings showed that even when they were down, they weren’t going to roll over. Consider the March 22 game in Waterloo, which the Kings lost 7-3. For most of the game, Elmira took a pounding, with Waterloo scoring once in the first period, four times in the second, and once more at the beginning of the third.

But starting with Brodie Whitehead’s goal at 5:48 in the third (assists: Eric Palazzolo, Adam Brubacher), the boys caught some momentum. Cash Seraphim (Zac Coulter) followed with a goal at 6:10, and Adam Campagnolo (Cass Frey, Mitch Wright) scored at 11:07. While Waterloo managed one more goal at 17:57 on an empty net, the Kings actually outshot their rivals 48-45.

“It was a testament to our players in order to rise to the challenge, in order to begin to come back,” said Flanagan.

Something similar happened on Sunday at the WMC. The Kings were outshot 15-7 in the first period, and Waterloo scored two goals in the second. But at 9:39 in the third, Brad Kobryn (David Savery, Seraphim) put one past the Siskins’ goalie and had Sugar King fans hoping for a comeback. Hopes were dashed at 19:35, when Waterloo again scored on an empty net; the final score was 3-1.

“I think special teams is definitely the difference in a series,” said Flanagan. “We couldn’t score in our power play, and they did a really good job in their power play. That definitely was the difference.”

It’s been a long road for the Sugar Kings, who ended the regular season with a 34-10-5 record – which was good for second place in the Midwestern Conference behind the Kitchener Dutchmen. With Flanagan wrapping up his first year as coach, does he have any goals for 2014-2015?

“Win the Sutherland Cup.”

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