The Elmira Sugar Kings extended their winning streak to five games with back-to-back overtime victories last weekend.
“I think we’re getting better and better every game,” said head coach Jeff Flanagan. “(Sunday’s) game, the first half we were excellent and then the second half we tailed off a bit. I think the same thing happened (Saturday) night.“We have to remedy that and it’s just habits. It’s working on the habits and sustaining them the whole game. Little things like putting pucks on the tape, getting pucks deep and making the right decisions at the right time. But we’re improving and the guys are really listening and doing a good job of trying to do the things we are asking them to do. Games are up and down for everybody so we are happy with the guys and there work ethic.”
Last Saturday, the Kings edged the Guelph Hurricanes 2-1 at the Sleeman Centre. Jamie Huber scored the first goal of the game, assisted by Steven Jakliela and Rob Kohli, while Cash Seraphim potted the winner in the final minute of overtime, from defensemen Adam Brubacher and Mac Clutsam.
And they did it without their number-one goalie, Jonathan Reinhart.
“There is a new rule in the league that you cannot have your chinstrap undone on the ice at any time, and (Reinhart) lifted his helmet up and it’s a gross misconduct, and you’re out,” explained Flanagan.
Both Reinhart and defenceman Conner Hall were booted from the warmup for the inadvertent equipment violation, which also resulted in each being suspended for the following night’s game against Cambridge.
But backup netminder Andrew Lefebvre stepped up, stopping 16 of 17 shots in the victory.
On Sunday night, the King’s hosted the Cambridge Winter Hawks in an exciting, high-scoring affair.
Rob Kohli opened the scoring in the first period with his first goal of the season from Huber and Alex Mutton.
Matt Harding, flipped from forward to defence to make up for the loss of Hall, netted his first of the campaign late in the frame to give the Kings a two-goal advantage.
But it was short-lived, as Zack Magwood beat Lefebvre just 30 seconds later to cut the deficit in half.
The floodgates opened up in the second, as Mitch Klie, Mac Clutsam, Cash Seraphim and Mitch Wright all found the back of the net for the Kings.
The Winter Hawks added three of their own, sending the game to the final frame with the Kings leading 6-4.
That’s when things turned ugly for the home side.
After dominating play for the first 40 minutes, the Kings fell back on their heels, surrendering goals to Parker Wood and Jake Moggy.
That led to the third straight overtime game for the Elmira squad.
Just over a minute in, Wright, the shootout hero on September 21, pulled the trigger on another game-winner.
“Rob Kohli made a great play,” said Flanagan. “He put (the puck) into space so that Mitch (Wright) could skate onto it and use his speed. We had talked about some ways that would be a good opportunity to score on (Owen) Savory, and (Wright) was listening.”
Wright, a third-year winger, took the chip pass from Kolhi near centre ice, and blasted by two Winter Hawk defenders. All alone on Cambridge goalie Owen Savory, Wright went forehand-backhand, shoveling the puck through the five-hole.
After the game, Flanagan praised the club’s effort.
“I thought Brodie Whitehead played really well. Jamie Huber was good. Mitch Wright was very good, and Alex Mutton was excellent. I thought Mitch Klie’s line with Palazollo and Seraphim, they played really well as a team. Those guys definitely did a good job.”
He added, “Matt Harding played defence for us tonight and did a heck of a job, so he deserves a lot of props for that.”
While the team improved their regular season record to 5-1 over the weekend, Flanagan noted several areas the group needs to address going forward.
“(It’s) good to win, but we are disappointed in the number of goals we allowed. Up until today, other then the (opener against) Stratford, nobody scored over two goals on us. It’s going to happen. We’re going to have games where you want to change things and do things better, and we’ve got lots of time this week to work on stuff.”
Specifically, “Puck management, we’ll be working on execution of the little things, whether it’s a breakout or it’s making decisions at the blue lines, whether it’s our blue line or the offensive because anytime you turn pucks over there, generally it turns into a chance going the other way. So those will be the main things and just continuing to practice our systems and getting better at them.”
The Kings will look to keep their streak alive on the road against Listowel Friday and at home against Brampton on Sunday evening. Game time at the WMC is 7 p.m.