A home-and-home series versus the Brampton Bombers ended with two more losses for the Elmira Sugar Kings, bringing them to a nine-game losing streak this weekend.
Both games were tight, with Brampton winning 6-5 on home ice on Friday, and then 5-4 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre on Sunday. Elmira’s executives also made the decision to let head coach Jeff Flanagan go on Sunday prior to the game, making assistant coach Ty Canal the new head coach.
“We’re giving up a lot of shots, a lot of scoring chances. We need to be better defensively and we need to get better goaltending. We scored five goals. We always feel if you can score five goals you should win games,” said general manager Jeff Snyder.
In Brampton, it took nearly the full first period before anyone got on the scoreboard. Brampton’s Ramon Lopez earned the goal on a power play, assisted by Mitch Shennette and Yianni Liarakos.
The Kings took the lead in the second frame as Jeff Jordan (Ethan Skinner) and David Elford (Ryan Walsh) tallied a goal apiece.
Bomber Brad Bollert tied things up in the last 10 seconds. He was helped by Joseph Spina and Liarakos.
“We scored five on Saturday night and four [on Sunday]. You should win a lot of games when you score four or five goals and we didn’t win either of them. So we feel our issue is more with defending and getting our goals against down,” Snyder said.
Eager to pull ahead, the Kings notched two goals in less than four minutes of play in the third to take a 4-2 lead. Jordan and Zac Coulter scored, with assists coming from Harlen VanWynsberghe, Jake Moggy, Skinner, and Mackenzie MacSorley.
Brampton’s Jordan Oshowy (Tayler Woolcott, Adel Zivojevic) shortened the gap with a goal less than 90 seconds later. The Kings returned the favor as Ty Jackson scored with help from Skinner and Coulter.
The Bombers weren’t ready to lose though and made a huge comeback as Oshowy, Christian Mariconda, and Liarakos scored three goals to win the game. Assists came from Liarakos, Bollert (2), Spina, Chris Arsenault, and Jordan Kreller.
Liam Conway saved 21 of 27 shots for the Kings, while Jason Rhynold stopped 37 of 42 shots for Brampton.
It was much of the same back and forth play in Elmira on Sunday where Brampton scored first on a shot from Patrick Zilak, assisted by Woolcott and Mike Rehding.
“We had some of the same issues,” Snyder said of their home game on Sunday.
“We gave up five goals, which is a lot again. On the positive side, we really liked how we battled. We found ourselves down and come back, down again and came back. We kept coming back and tying it up. We just couldn’t get that goal to get the lead or we couldn’t stop them form getting that goal to put them back in the lead.”
Elmira’s Alex Peterson evened the score late in the first, helped by Coulter and Quinten Bruce.
A goal from Shennette (Zivojevic, Lopez) in the second gave Brampton the lead again, but Elmira fired back with a power play goal from Coulter (Skinner, MacSorley) less than 30 seconds later.
Shennette (Woolcott, Liarakos) scored his second of the night to head into the final frame 3-2 for Brampton.
“We are a young team. We don’t have a lot of veterans, but the ones we have are really good players. We didn’t feel we’d be in the spot that we’re in, having lost as many games in a row as we have. And certainly the injuries contributed to that but we feel we are a better team than what our record indicates,” Snyder said.A long shot from the blue line tied the game up 3-3 thanks to Elmira’s Peterson, assisted by Ty Biles and Jordan.
It only took a minute for Brampton to answer back. Zivojevic scored the fourth goal for the Bombers, helped by Justin Coles and Wyatt Weppler.
A power play goal from the Kings’ Ryley Cribbin (Ryan Walsh, Jordan) at 12:31 gave fans hope the Kings could finally another game to their win column. But within four minutes Liarakos (Shennette, Lopez) scored for Brampton and the Kings couldn’t make another goal happen.
“Obviously one thing we did was make the coaching change,” Snyder said, of how they’re working to improve on their record. “I think part of it on the defensive side, we only have one returning defenseman from last year and he’s been out for the last three weeks. We’ve really missed him. We are young on defense. We’ve got two young guys in goal. We’ve got to find a way to play better as a group defensively, forwards and defensemen included and just find a way to get our goals against down.”
The Kings are eighth of nine in the league with just four wins this season. They haven’t won a game since Oct. 4 in a blowout 8-1 victory over Listowel.
Head coach Ty Canal says the players were working hard and communicating better on and off the ice. Speaking to them after the game, they were clearly disappointed and thought they should have won. Unfortunately Brampton capitalized on a couple lapses.
Elmira goalie Mike Black kept 32 of 37 shots out of the net, to Brampton goalie Jason Rhynold’s 27 of 31.
“I think we have to be tough to play against and that’s something that we’re going to work on over the next little while. As long as we’re getting better every day, every month, every practice, every game, come playoff time if we find our stride there, I think we can surprise some teams,” Canal said.
“The guys see the potential there and we’ve go to make sure we’re playing the right type of hockey come playoffs.”
On the road on Friday the Kings take on the Listowel Cyclones at 7:30 p.m. They’ll return to the WMC on Sunday with the hopes of defeating the Cambridge Winter Hawks. Game time is 7 p.m.