Coming off a not-so-successful run the weekend before, the Elmira Sugar Kings put two in the win column as the calendar flipped over to February – the first against Cambridge (7-3) and the second, at home, against Brampton, a 6-2 final.
Saturday’s game against the Winter Hawks at Galt Arena Gardens saw the Kings rack up seven goals to the Cambridge’s three.
Forward Zac Coulter started the scoring, with a goal just five minutes into the first, helped in by Ethan Skinner and Mackenzie MacSorley. MacSorley doubled up the Sugar Kings’ score on the power play ten minutes later, putting the puck past Cambridge goalie Owen Savory while Robert Proner was in the box for cross checking.
The Winter Hawks started the second period with two goals, tying up the game, both from Alex Mutton. Before the final buzzer of the second period, MacSorley scored his second powerplay goal, assisted by defenceman Kevin Fitzpatrick, with just 45 seconds left.
The boys capitalized on their forward momentum, opening scoring in the third period, and taking the lead with a goal on the powerplay, assisted by Skinner and Rob Kohli. Just over a minute later, Kings’ forward Kyle Soper doubled the team’s lead with help from Fitzpatrick.
In a moment of weakness, the Kings let Cambridge’s Sean Ross score shorthanded, bringing the scoring a bit closer, with help from Kyle Heitzner and Matt McKay. Twenty seconds later, Fitzpatrick scored the Kings’ fourth powerplay goal of the game, assisted by recently returned Klayton Hoelscher and Alex Peterson. To clinch the lead, Coulter scored his third of the game, earning himself a hat trick, on an empty net after the Winter Hawks pulled their goalie.
Sugar Kings’ head coach Ty Canal says that even with the win, the game started out slow for his squad.
“At Saturday’s game, I don’t think we came out too strong,” he said, adding that Sunday’s game on home ice was a completely different story, referencing the five unanswered goals in the first period. “I thought our start on Sunday was obviously very good. We came out of the gate strong, and after Saturday, it was nice to come out on the strong side and put the puck in the net like we did.”
During Sunday’s matinee game, the Kings dominated the first, with goals from Jeff Jordan on the powerplay (MacSorley and Skinner), Quinten Bruce (from Peterson and Hoelscher), two in a row from Skinner (unassisted, then on the powerplay from Coulter and Kohli), and the fifth from Ryley Cribbin (Ryan Maksymyk and Soper).
It seemed that Brampton finally took notice of the score nearing the end of the first, and began to fight back, allowing fewer shots to make it to the net, and checking, checking, checking. Canal says the intensity coming from the visitor’s bench gave the Kings good practice for playoff style hockey.
“Brampton definitely plays hard, they finish checks and things like that, so it was a good test for our guys to stay composed and stay disciplined and making sure they aren’t getting thrown off their game which can easily happen when you’re getting hit and checked every time you touch the puck. I think that is the type of playoff hockey that happens – there is not a lot of space, so it was a good test for us. It worked out pretty well for us,” he said. “At times it is tough to have that intensity for 60 minutes, but we definitely let them back in the game and we have to give them credit for continuing to battle and, you know, it was a good little second and third for us to be able to fight back through that.”
The game turned into a decent back-and-forth in the second period, with Brampton scoring one of their only two goals of the game, coming from Adel Zivojevic, assisted by Brad Bollet and Patrick Zilak. It was the only goal of the second period.
Heading into the third period with a four goal lead, Skinner rubbed salt in Brampton’s wounds by notching another goal, his third of the game, assisted by Coulter and Ryan Walsh. In a final ditch effort, Brampton’s Jordan Kreller, sunk a powerplay marker, helped in by Bollert and Yianni Liarakos, but it certainly wasn’t enough to change the direction of the wind at the Dan Snyder Arena – too little, too late. The final score was 6-2 for Elmira.
Canal says that with the winning weekend behind them, the boys have a week off before hosting Kitchener at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, and will be practicing maintaining the momentum from the last two games. Playoffs are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, with only six games left in the regular season.
“I think it is just progressing on what we have been working on in the last little while. There isn’t a lot of time left before playoffs, so it’s definitely something that we are working hard on, as well as skating and fine tuning areas of the game that we need to and to make sure that when the week of Mar. 1 comes along, we’re going in the right direction and getting as close to 60 minutes of hockey as we can,” he said.
A highlight of the weekend for Canal was watching the boys play off each other and smoothly cycling through lines. Working together is key to the team’s success.
“The big thing for us, especially in that first period on Sunday, was the momentum that went from line to line, which we have been working on the last couple of weeks. It was very nice to see the guys run off one another in the first period,” he said. “The second we did give up scoring chances, that next line that was out, they were able to slow the pace down, which is something that we have been talking about for a while. It was a good team game this weekend, which obviously helped us on the score board.”
The next home game for the Kings (21-17-1) is on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. when they will be hosting the Conference-leading Kitchener Dutchmen (39-4).