Despite dropping both weekend games, the Elmira Sugar Kings are finding plenty of positives in their game play.
They battled back from a three goal deficit to a one goal difference against Stratford on Friday night, before falling 5-2. And on home ice on Sunday they were up 3-1 over Kitchener in the second frame, but ended up losing 4-3.
They were undoubtedly tough losses, but proof the Kings can compete with the top two teams in the league.
“It was definitely a good test this weekend,” said head coach Ty Canal.
“We’ve had some tough games down the stretch here against very good hockey teams. I think it’s good for our players to see and you definitely have to take some positives out of it. From watching you could see our guys getting confidence when we were behind and now we’ve just got to find a way to make sure when we’re up to shut the door and to be able to close out a game for the full 60 minutes that we need to.”
Neither Elmira or Stratford could get any scoring done in the first period, but the Cullitons would dominate the second, notching three goals to Elmira’s zero. Goal scorers were Jared Nash, and Tyson Baker (2), helped by Josh Miller (2), Hayden Broomhead, Anthony Kotsovos, and Nash.Ethan Skinner and Ty Biles got the Sugar Kings on the board in less than four minutes into the third, bringing the score to 3-2 in the Cullitons’ favour. Mitch Montgomery, Mackenzie MacSorley, Ryley Cribbin, and Ryan Walsh picked up the assists.
“We played some good hockey. There were some good stretches especially at the beginning of the third when our backs were up against the wall, I thought we started to skate well and we started to play with some urgency and get that type of game going,” Canal said.
He says it would have been nice to see that same type of urgency earlier in the game, when they let Stratford get ahead of them in the second period.
“We had a stretch there that we weren’t playing the way that we can and that put us behind the eight ball. Luckily in the third we were able to get a couple quick goals, which got us right back into the game and for some reason when our backs are up against a wall we’re playing better hockey,” Canal said.
Stratford increased to a two-goal lead late in the frame with a goal from Justin Graham (Baker), and when the Kings pulled their goalie, Jack Scanlan gave Stratford the 5-2 win, assisted by Tristan Hohl.
On Sunday versus Kitchener, it looked like the Kings were going to hand the first-place Dutchmen their third loss of the season.
Elmira’s Quinten Bruce (Montgomery, Jake Moggy) scored late in the first to start the second frame in the Kings’ favour. But within 37 seconds Dutchman Jason Willms (Owen Lane, Nathan Grossi) tied it up.
The Kings took the 3-1 lead with goals from Ty Biles (Cribbin, Skinner) and Dawson Shackelton (unassisted and shorthanded) in the second. Kitchener’s Lane, assisted by Curtis Smith, lessened the gap with a goal of his own.
“It all happened in the second period. I don’t know if we took the foot off the pedal. They’re a good team. If you give good teams opportunities to score or opportunities to take momentum and that’s what unfortunately we did in the second. We gave them momentum, and we gave them opportunities. When you’re a good team like that you’re going to capitalize. It’s definitely unfortunate,” Canal said.
But there was no more scoring for the Kings as Kitchener scored twice in the third to take the game. Alex Demrovsky and Connor Cole picked up the goals, with Taite Wirschke (2), Adam Kawalec, and Nathan Grossi assisting.
“Being up 3-1 at the one point, we felt that was one that our guys after the game felt like we were hoping to capitalize on that and play with the lead for a change as well, and work on shutting a team down when we are up by a couple,” Canal said.
Canal says the weekend may not have gone as planned, but you can tell the players are starting to become more comfortable playing together as a team.
“Over the course of a season there’s definitely going to be a lot of ups and downs. It’s just a matter of how you take it and how you can bounce back from both ways,” Canal said.
The Kings head to Guelph to face the Hurricanes tonight (Dec. 17) at 7:30 p.m. and return home to the WMC at 2 p.m. to play the Cambridge Winter Hawks for their final game of 2015.