After posting an even 3-3 record in preseason action, the Elmira Sugar Kings look to start the 2014-15 regular campaign strong this weekend.
The Junior B squad kicks off the season against the Cullitons in Stratford September 12 before taking on the Listowel Cyclones at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena at 2 p.m. September 14.
“I think Friday is going to be a good test because Stratford is a team that hasn’t lost many players (from last season),” said Sugar King’s head coach Jeff Flanagan. “They didn’t age out too many and they have a large number of 20 year-olds.”
While Flanagan is pleased with the way the team performed in camp and during the exhibition schedule, he is reluctant to discuss expectations.
“We’re not really ones to say we think we’ll be this place or that place. We think we’ll be competitive. We’re excited about the young players that came in and we think we’ll be faster. Paul (Jennings) and Keith (Stewart) brought in some players with offensive upside and we’re expecting a lot out of our returnees. We have a lot of 19 year-olds (born in) 1995 that have come to camp in tip top shape, prepared to work hard and improve in order to help us win.”
The highlight of the training camp was a trip to Vermont where the club took part in the annual Woodchuck Classic.
The tournament, held at the University of Vermont September 5-7, serves as a player showcase for NCAA scouts.
The Kings went 2-1.
“We played really well,” said Flanagan. “On Saturday we beat the South Shore Kings (3-2) who have a number of NCAA commitments and a third round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks so that was great. The team we played Saturday night was not near as good and we beat them handily (10-0). And then Sunday morning was a tough game. The guys were extremely tired and they were trying but we just didn’t have the gas. We lost 3-1 against a good team.”
The road trip gave the group a lot of time to get to know each other, Flanagan added.
“Everybody seems to be getting along well. We have a number of younger guys, including a couple of 16 year-olds, so that is a concern because when you have 20-year-olds and 16-year-olds together, is anybody nervous? You have to make sure that everybody is looking out for each other, because it can be pretty nerve racking coming in as a young player. I equate it to going into high school. You feel like you belong there, but you’re still extremely nervous about the older kids. But things seem to be going well that way.”
The Kings split their first two preseason games against the Kitchener Dutchmen with a 7-2 win August 26 and a 3-1 loss on August 28.