The Elmira Sugar Kings closed out the exhibition schedule with a dominant 9-3 victory over the Cambridge Winter Hawks on the road Saturday evening.
“It was our first game with almost our full lineup for the season, so that was a positive for us,” Kings head coach Jeff Flanagan said. “We tried some lines that we’re hoping might work out for the regular season and they did. We had scoring from some of our veterans, from our rookies and our defense, the young core back there, played really well. The guys were giving a great effort in all areas and while we made some mistakes, we felt like our guys, for what we’ve practiced so far, did a good job.”
Zac Coulter led the way with a hat trick, while Ethan Skinner, Quinten Bruce, Klayton Hoelscher, Jeff Jordan, Alex Uttley and Ryan Maksymyk all added goals. Ty Jackson and Skinner each notched three assists, Mitch Montgomery, Riley Cribbin and Ty Biles all had two helpers and Kevin Gergeley picked up one of his own.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing during the pre-season though, as the Kings finished with a 1-3 record.
But now that their roster is set and a number of key players have returned from Ontario Hockey League training camps, the defending Cherrey Cup champions will look to get off to a strong start in the games that actually count.
“For this time in the season, we are where we’re going to be,” said Flanagan. “In goal, we have had some injuries and some illness, but Mike Black is pretty well healthy. He had mono earlier in the summer and was just cleared to play last week so now it’s just about getting his fitness level back, and as you know, that isn’t something that happens over night. And Liam Conway, our other goaltender has an injury at the moment, but we’re hoping that by next week he’s going to be skating full-time and will be back at it but it’s hard to say. Other than that, we are where we’re going to be for now, and of course there is always the potential of adding someone but that goes for every team. So otherwise, this is going to be our roster as we head into the season.”
Now, the club is set to open up the regular season this weekend with a pair of contests at the Western Fair in London.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Flanagan said of the showcase event, which will see the Kings take on St. Catharines at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, followed by a 10:30 a.m. matchup against Lambton Shores on Sunday, both at the Western Fair Community Centre.
“St. Catharines historically, is always a strong team, and (Lambton Shores) by all accounts is building and should have a good team. And the schedule isn’t great, playing in the afternoon on Saturday and then we’re back on the ice first thing on Sunday morning. It’s going to be a quick turnaround for our guys so hopefully our fitness levels that we work so hard on over the summer are going to carry us through. But we’re going to have to be on our top game.”
After the showcase, the Kings will begin their Midwestern Conference title defense on the road against Listowel September 18, before returning to Elmira for the home-opener against Guelph September 20, where the puck drops at 2 p.m. at the WMC.