The Elmira Sugar Kings are one step closer in defending the Cherrey Cup, after defeating the Guelph Hurricanes on Saturday, clinching the best-of-seven series in five games.
The Kings move on to play the Cullitons in the semi-finals starting Friday in Stratford.
On Mar. 9 on home ice for Game 4, the Kings edged the Canes 2-1. Zac Cameron scored at 12:38 in the first, assisted by Kalob Witzell. Captain Rob Kohli added one of his own, helped by Witzell and Ty Biles.
“We played pretty sound I thought. I don’t think there were a lot of scoring chances, our d-zone was pretty good,” said head coach Ty Canal.
“I thought we were able to get going pretty well that game and the second period we were on our heels again, just like on Saturday, but we were able to find a way to win and at this time of the year that’s the main important thing.”
Guelph’s lone goal came later that frame from Stefano Pezzetta. Sebastian Stangherlin and Sean Power picked up the assists. The third period resulted in no scoring.
Elmira spent 18 minutes in the penalty box to Guelph’s mere six. Elmira netminder Jonathan Reinhart stopped 32 shots, while Guelph’s Jason DaSilva recorded 28 saves.
“The third period they came on strong and our guys did a good job in the defensive end and tried to eliminate their scoring chances as much as we could,” Canal said.
Saturday night’s game at the Sleeman Centre got off to a slow start. Neither side was able to change the scoreboard in the first.
Hurricane David Elford gave Guelph the 1-0 lead four minutes into the second, assisted by Ryan Waterhouse and Corson Searles.
The Kings finally got on the board near the end of the middle frame with a successful shot from Kohli, with help from Jake Moggy and Kevin Fitzpatrick.
“I thought the big thing there for us was to come out of the first even or up. Their backs were against the wall and they’ve got a lot of skill on that team. We knew they’d be coming out strong and we just had to try to come out of that first period even and try to limit their scoring chances and that’s what our goal was. Luckily we were able to do that,” Canal said.
Elmira took control in the third period with a power play marker from Fitzpatrick (Zac Coulter, Mackenzie MacSorley) putting the Kings in front.
A few minutes later Klayton Hoelscher (Beau Goehrum) put one past DaSilva. And an unassisted empty netter from Alex Peterson in the final 30 seconds ended the game with a 4-1 victory for Elmira. “After that it was just trying to get our flow back and trying to push the pace the way we wanted to, which I thought we did alright on. And again once we were able to get up on the power play goal I think the guys were able to relax a little bit and again they were able to come at us a little stronger in the third, which we were expecting. We were able to try again to limit their shots to one and clear the front of the net the best we could,” Canal said.
Elmira accumulated 20 penalty minutes, while Guelph had 28. Reinhart stopped 26 shots, and DaSilva stopped 23.
Guelph won the first game of the series in overtime, and Elmira won the next four straight.
The Kings have definitely stepped their compete level up in the playoffs. Canal says the guys were playing for one another and battling hard for pucks.
He adds they were able to get some five-on-five goals in those last two games, which is big for them. There were a couple weekends where they weren’t scoring in five-on-five play.
“We had a few different guys score as well this weekend, which translate into that team-type game we’re trying to play and the guys are starting to get rewarded for it.”
The next series versus Stratford should prove to be more of a challenge. The Cullitons finished second in the league in the regular season with a 33-10-4 record.
Last season Elmira and Stratford faced off in the Cherrey Cup championship, with the Kings emerging victorious. This time around only one team will move on to the finals, the winner of this series.
And it’ll be familiar territory for Canal who coached Stratford last season before coming to the Sugar Kings in the fall.
“Anytime you get farther in the playoffs everything ends up being a little bit stronger and a little bit more intense. Those little things they can backfire on you. So we’ve got to make sure we limit our turnovers and limit the scoring chances as best we can. As you go things become tighter and everybody’s playing obviously good hockey to keep moving on, so we’ve got to make sure we can control how we’re playing and go from there,” Canal said.
Game one goes this Friday in Stratford at 7:30 p.m. They return home Sunday to the WMC for game two at 7 p.m. Game three is 7:30 p.m. on Monday in Stratford and they’re back to Elmira on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. start. The full schedule is available on the Sugar Kings’ website, www.kings.on.ca.