Finishing up the regular season last weekend, the Elmira Sugar Kings added two final wins to their record.
They’ll face Guelph in the first round of playoffs starting this weekend.
Head coach Ty Canal says the guys played some good hockey to end the season.
In Brampton on Feb. 26, the Kings managed to dig themselves out of a two-goal deficit in the second to tie the game 2-2 going into the third period.
While there was no scoring in the first, Brampton’s Patrick Zilak and Nick Kiriakos scored in the second, assisted by Mike Rehding, Adel Zivojevic, Nolan Regan, and Mitch Shennette.
A power play shot from Rob Kohli at 15:27 finally got Elmira on the board. Zac Coulter and Mackenzie MacSorley assisted. Coulter added a late goal helped by MacSorley to even the score. Ty Biles and Alex Peterson were also ejected from the game for fighting.
The Bombers pulled ahead at 12:19 in the third on a power play goal from Wyatt Weppler (Jordan Kreller, Regan). Both teams got testy and Kevin Fitzpatrick was thrown out for fighting, and handed a four-game suspension.
The Kings kept fans on the edge of their seat as Coulter put away a shorthanded goal with 23 seconds left in the game, helped by Kalob Witzell and Ethan Skinner. And a mere 10 seconds later Kohli secured Elmira’s win with a shorthanded goal, and Skinner picking up the assist.
“I thought we came out of the gate pretty well. We got out to the lead and then we let Brampton get back into it, which that’s something that we’ve been talking about for awhile and trying to narrow down to make sure we’re not letting teams do that. We did and the guys were able to get the job done,” Canal said.
For their final regular season game the Kings returned home to defeat the Stratford Cullitons 3-2. This marked the first time this season Elmira has beat Stratford.
Stratford struck first blood with a goal from Tristan Hohl (Jared Nash). Kyle Soper added his own to even the score for the Kings. Assists came from Alex Peterson and Zac Cameron.
A beautiful little dangle shot from Kohli with 16 seconds to go in the period gave Elmira the 2-1 advantage heading into the second frame. Coulter and Ryan Maksymyk picked up the assists.
The Cullies leveled the playing field in the second with a goal from Drew Gross (Justin Graham, Deven Kropf).
A late power play goal from Skinner, assisted by Coulter, would see the game end 3-2 for the Kings, despite a penalty shot awarded to Stratford with one second left in the game. Elmira goalie Jon Reinhart stopped it to ensure the win.
“I thought that was a good game for us at home. We’d lost a couple games over the last little while at home and you’ve got to make sure that those home games you play well and get those wins, especially in the playoffs. I think that was good for us going into the playoffs, getting a good game at home in front of the great crowd that was there and had some intensity through that game as well,” Canal said.
He says momentum swung side to side throughout the game and he thought the players held their composure and bore down in the third when we needed to. They started to play playoff type hockey and made sure they were consistent and level headed on Sunday, he added.
“It was definitely a good way to end it,” Canal said.
The Kings finish the regular season with a 24-19-2 record, in fifth place. They had the best power play percentage in the GOJHL at 25.4 per cent.
Zac Coulter and Ethan Skinner have been notable players all year with impressive stats. Skinner was fifth in the GOJHL for points with 24 goals and 60 assists, while Coulter was eighth. Coulter was also the top scorer in the Midwestern Conference with 41 goals in 50 games.
Canal says it was a season of ups and downs.
“I thought we had some very good stretches and we had some stretches that we were a little inconsistent as well. But the guys were able to regroup and get back to the little things and the basics,” Canal said.
Something they’ve stressed with the team is to take each game one at a time and not dwell on past losses. This is especially important for playoffs when there are back to back games.
“It’s definitely a new season and you’ve got to go with a clean slate. But at the same time learn what you can from the previous meetings and run with some type of momentum and make sure guys are ready to play and ready to work and ready to compete for the 60 minutes,” Canal said.
He says getting out of the gate strong is going to be important for them and they’re hoping to carry last weekend’s momentum into the playoffs.
Kevin Fitzpatrick is out on a four-game suspension, which included Sunday’s game, so he’ll be out for the first three games of the playoffs. Colton Culbert is also out.
At Sunday night’s game Jon Reinhart was awarded the Barbara Schaefer Memorial Trophy as voted on by the fans.
The Kings are off to Guelph this Saturday for the first in the best-of-seven series versus the Hurricanes. Game time is 7:30 p.m. They return to the WMC on Sunday for a 7 p.m. start. They’ll head to Guelph on Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. matchup and then back home on Wednesday for game four at 7:30 p.m. The series will continue the following weekend if necessary.