Having come away from a challenging opening two games of the 2015-16 season with a split at the Western Fair showcase tournament in London over the weekend, Elmira Sugar Kings head coach Jeff Flanagan says he’s proud of the resiliency his team showed.
The defending Cherrey Cup champions began their title defense with a squad that includes just six returning players.
With a young group and just a few weeks of practices to institute systems and schemes, Flanagan knew it would be a tough match-up against the St. Catharines Falcons on September 12.
And while the Kings fell 7-2, he was pleased with how his squad came out ready to compete against one of the top clubs in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“We thought actually that we had a pretty good weekend,” Flanagan said. “The score against St. Catharines on Saturday didn’t really reflect our total game. The first period we felt we played well, but they scored a shorthanded goal against us with a minute and a half left in the period. Though up until that point we felt we had played a very good game against them. And then we had about a six or seven minute lapse in the second period where they scored three goals and that put us down a significant amount. Then in the third period, we felt we played really well. So it was just a matter of young guys that are learning and we made some mistakes that cost us, but at the same time, we thought we competed very well with them and they’re going to be a very good team this year. We think we’re going to be a good team too, but we’re certainly a different makeup than them and we’ve got a little bit more learning to do I think.”
Ryan Walsh and Zac Coulter scored the goals for Elmira, while Rob Kohli and Ethan Skinner (2) picked up the assists.
Back on the ice at 10:30 a.m. the following day, the Kings bounced back for a 5-4 win over the Lambton Shores Predators.
“On Sunday we thought we played well,” Flanagan said. “I think (Mike) Black would like a couple of those goals back, and I know we also had another shorthanded goal scored against us and the (penalty kill) guys, I know felt pretty bad about that. But all in all, we scored some nice goals and our systems were working not too bad and our guys worked hard, which is always number one for us. It was a back and forth game and we were happy with the way our guys reacted on the bench when we got scored on and we had some good momentum goals where we came back. So all in all it was a good weekend. It certainly showed us some of the things we need to work on, but it was also a good chance for our guys to bond, staying overnight in London.”
Ethan Skinner was the offensive star of the game, with a hat trick and an assist. Kohli scored a goal and added an assist; Jeff Jordan scored his first goal as a King; Mitch Montgomery and Coulter both had two helpers; while Riley Cribbin, Alex Peterson, Ryan Maksymyk and Ty Jackson all had an assist.
The Sugar Kings of back in action Friday (Sept. 18) on the road against the Listowel Cyclones. They return to the Woolwich Memorial Centre Sunday to host the Guelph Hurricanes in the home opener. There will be a pre-game barbeque outside the arena beginning at 12:30 p.m. followed by the dedication of the rink’s referee room in honour of Richard Rank, a prominent figure in Elmira’s hockey community who died of a heart attack in 2014. Game time is 2 p.m.