Four Elmira Sugar King alumni will play for the title of “World’s Greatest Street Hockey Players,” after winning the elite division of Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On! tournament in Sudbury. And team chemistry was a key to their success.
“We started playing with each other,” said Spencer MacCormack, a forward with the Kings during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. “The more we got the hang of it, the better we started to play together, which was the main thing.”
Former Kings Luke Baleshta, Matt Schieck, Nick Horrigan and MacCormack were joined by Brandon Matthew and Nick Pope at the event on June 21- 22. With the victory, the team earned a spot at the national championships on August 22-24 in Kingston. But the competition will be stiff.
“It is pretty competitive,” former New Hamburg Firebird Nick Pope said. “We played against three or four teams that had OHL (Ontario Hockey League) players. The first game we played was Tyler Bertuzzi’s team, who just went to the Memorial Cup.”
Fortunately, the team has plenty of competitive ice-hockey experience of their own.
Baleshta played three seasons with the Kings from 2009-2012 and is currently playing NCAA hockey with SUNY Plattsburgh. Nick Horrigan started in goal for the Kings from 2009-2012 and is now playing with SUNY Geneseo. And Matt Schieck played forward with Elmira during the 2012-2013 season, before being traded to the Waterloo Siskins last summer.
“All of us have played pretty high level ice hockey, so we lean on our sticks a little more when we are shooting the ball,” Pope said.
Playing in the local ball hockey league helped the guys adjust their skills from the ice to the street, Pope added.
“I think a lot of the OHL guys tried to use too much finesse out there and made the extra pass. We were shot first, pass second… It was more go in there and grind and shoot everything.”
“We knew how to play the curve of the ball,” he said. “We made some wild shots.”