The Elmira Sugar Kings are on a roll, winning three straight games including a dramatic shoot-out victory over the Stratford Cullitons Sunday evening at the WMC.
“On Sunday, we knew we had a tough battle against Stratford coming off the game last weekend where they really put the boots to us,” head coach Jeff Flanagan said, referring to the season opener on September 12 which the Cullitons took 7-2 at the Allman Arena. “We looked at it from a standpoint of getting better on the little things like putting passes on the tape and making sure we execute the fundamentals better.”The Kings got off to a slow start, surrendering the first goal of the game to Stratford’s Jake Pleon after Alex Mutton and Rob Kohli took back-to-back penalties.
In the second, the gap extended to two on a shorthanded goal by Mitch Brooks.
But under two minutes later, the Kings were awarded a penalty shot after a Culliton player gloved the puck during a mad scramble in the visitor’s crease.
Eric Palazzolo made no mistake on the break-away, snapping a shot by Nicholas Caldwell to cut the deficit in half.
Less than two minutes later, Zac Coulter evened the score on a power play marker from Harrison Domagala and Mitch Klie.
After a scoreless third and an uneventful five minutes of four-on-four overtime, the King’s coaching staff selected Eric Palazzolo, Ethan Skinner and Mitch Klie for the shoot-out.
Each were denied, while King’s netminder Jonathan Reinhart reciprocated with three clutch saves at the other end of the rink.
After Reinhart stopped the fourth Culliton shooter, Kings veteran Mitch Wright approached the centre ice circle.
To the delight of the home crowd, Wright beat Caldwell to push the King’s record to 3-1 on the season.
Afterwards, Flanagan credited his goalie for a solid performance that included 28 saves to go along with the four key stops in the shoot-out.
“Jonathan Reinhart played excellent in net for us,” he said. “We played okay, we thought. Stratford played a really good game even though they were short bodies, with two or three guys out with suspensions. But they were still very tough to compete with and we got lucky in the shoot-out.”
On September 19, the Kings travelled to Brampton’s Powerade Centre where they hammered the Bombers 8-2.
“We scored the most goals we had scored to date this season, and so we were happy with that,” Flanagan said. “I wouldn’t say we played our best game, but Andrew Lefebvre played quite well in net and we got the help we needed up front.”
Lefebvre made 27 saves in his Kings debut, after being brought over during the offseason from the Sudbury Nickel Barons of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
He is expected to play the backup role going forward.
“Right now and going into the season, Jonathan Reinhart is our number-one and Andrew (Lefebvre) came in as our number-two with the anticipation that he would really push Jonathan for the number-one spot,” Flanagan said. “Both of them are very good, but we had decided just after the season last year that Jonathan would be our number-one guy and that we would give him the opportunity to run with it, and so far he has done pretty well.”
In 19 starts last season, Reinhart put up a stellar .930 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average.
On the offensive side, Wright, Palazzolo, Ethan Skinner, Cash Seraphim and Klayton Hoelscher all notched tallies against the Bombers, while Klie scored twice
Klie, Seraphim, Wright, Palazzolo, Hoelscher, Sam Harris, Zac Coulter and Brodie Whitehead added assists while Adam Brubacher had two helpers and Mac Clutsam had three.
Looking to keep the streak going Friday night in Guelph against the Hurricanes, the Kings return home for a 7 p.m. start against the Cambridge Winter Hawks Sunday.