With a 34-10-5 record during the 2013-14 season, the Elmira Sugar Kings were the second-place team in the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference. Several of the Kings will soon be playing on college teams in the United States, and among those left behind are skilled players who are expected to evolve further in the fall. There were no extended losing streaks (as there were in 2012-13), and fans consistently packed the WMC.
So, given these facts, how much should the team’s disappointing performance in the playoffs – falling to the Waterloo Siskins in Game 7 of the second round – colour the year?
“I think, overall, we had a successful season,” said general manager Paul Jennings. “We’re never pleased not going as far as we would like, which is eventually getting the Sutherland Cup. That’s disappointing, but we have kids who are going to move on to play U.S. college hockey next year, and if you’ve got kids doing that, you’ve got to qualify it as a successful season.”
“In the first two thirds of the season, we had great consistency in our play,” said head coach Jeff Flanagan. “We were able to string together a number of wins in a row, and then if we lost a game, we were able to come back the next game and win again.
“In the second half of the season, we probably had some issues in our ability to keep consistent in our execution. If we could go back, we’d maybe look at it a little differently. But we had lots of great individual success from our players – they were all great, upstanding citizens.”
Indeed, there was no shortage of talent on the team. Adam Campagnolo, Brad Kobryn, and Justin Cooke will all be moving on to NCAA teams next year (the colleges are to be announced); Alex Mutton will be playing for the OHL in North Bay, and Jonathan Reinhart has a free agent invitation for the OHL in Mississauga.
“If I had to pinpoint one player, it would be Jonathan Reinhart,” said Jennings of the goaltender. “He had an outstanding first season with us here in Elmira, and he’s going to be returning next season as goaltender. He’s really solidified himself as one of the top goaltenders in our conference. All our kids worked hard, but Jonathan stood out.”
Flanagan agreed, adding, “He was called up in a backup situation and did an excellent job. Hayden Neuman had the second-best goals-against average in Kings history, and Jonathan Reinhart had the third-best.”
Flanagan also singled out David Savery for praise. “He came in as more of a defenseman and was called upon to provide offense, and he did a great job of that. In the end, that gave him an opportunity to play at the Royal Military College in Houston.”
But everyone pulled his weight, Flanagan added.
“Everybody did a great job. They did what they were asked to do, they competed every day, they came with a good attitude, and it’s always enjoyable to work with players that are like that.”
The fact that the Kings suffered an early exit cannot be ignored. Jennings says that when the team returns next year, they will work harder to sustain intensity through the playoffs.
“What we need to do is try to put that push in the playoffs. We play probably the toughest conference in the province, and that’s been a challenge for us, and one that we want to overcome.”