The Elmira Sugar Kings found themselves down 2-1 against the Stratford Cullitons in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League conference semi-finals heading into Game 4 of the series Wednesday night.
The series started in Stratford on Mar. 18, with a slow first period start for the Kings. They managed to bring it back with four goals to tie it up, but ultimately lost in overtime.
“In the first, we were on our heels. We gave up a couple of breakdowns and gave up some odd-man rushes and fell behind the eight ball right off the bat. That is unfortunate, obviously,” said head coach Ty Canal, adding the team didn’t give up even when they were down by three. “But, it was good of our guys to not lose focus and we came back in the second and third and we were able to tie it up. We played well those two periods, I thought, and we were playing the way we needed to play, but just fell a little short in overtime there.”
Stratford started the scoring in the Mar. 18 game, with a marker from Zach Van Louwe, assisted by Jack Scanlan and Cooper Stahl. The Cullitons followed their first goal with three more, coming from Jared Nash (Justin Graham and Hayden Broomhead), Louwe from Scanlan and a power play marker from Zander Pryor, assisted by Scanlan and Joe Leahy. That would be it from Stratford until overtime.
Elmira answered back at the end of the first with Kyle Soper putting one to the back of the net with help from Ty Biles. There was only one goal in the second period, coming from Elmira’s Biles, assisted by Mackenzie MacSorley.
The third period saw the Kings come back from their two-goal deficit and forcing overtime with two markers, both from MacSorley and only 16 seconds apart. The first assisted by Ethan Skinner and Kevin Fitzpatrick, and the second assisted by Kohli.
Unfortunately, the Cullitons got the win with a goal from Graham, helped along by Broomhead and Jared Nash at 10:25 of overtime.
For Game 2 in the series, the Kings brought the fight back home to the Dan Snyder Arena. The score sheet tells a different story from Game 1, with the Kings taking the lead and holding it for the whole game.
“I think it was a fast game, the puck was moving quickly and I think the big thing for our guys was that they bounced back from Game 1 and played some consistent hockey, which I think we did for that game, for sure,” said Canal. “We were up pretty much the entire game and it was nice to see that when they scored a goal, our guys were able to compete through that and get another one immediately and at the end of the day, we were able to hold them off.”
The first goal of the night came from Elmira’s MacSorley on the power play, assisted by Zac Coulter and Fitzpatrick at 17:44 into the first period.
Stratford answered with an unassisted power play goal from Leahy just two minutes into the second, but the Kings weren’t going to give up the lead. Ryan Maksymyk sunk a puck with help from Jake Moggy and Kalob Witzell a few minutes later, followed by an unassisted goal from Coulter at 11:30.
Stratford made an attempt at a comeback with a goal from Josh Higgins (Rob Grant). The Kings were up 3-2.
The third period saw two power play goals, one from each side. The first was potted by Elmira’s Kohli, assisted by Ethan Skinner and Moggy. The second from Stratford’s Pryor, assisted by Scanlan and Van Louwe. It was the last goal of the game, which ended up at 4-3.
Game 3 went very much the way of Game 1 with a slow start for the Kings. This time, however, they were unable to recover. They lost the game 7-3.
“You know, it was the same sort of thing as Game 1 with the odd-man rushes and the turnovers there. The guys still battled and they still worked hard,” said Canal, adding that the guys are working to regain the focus they had in the second game of the series. “In the playoffs you have to have a short memory and play each period at a time. We are coming back home now, and getting back into our routine, so hopefully we are able to bounce back after that one.”
Stratford dominated the first period at Monday night’s game, with four unanswered goals. The first from Higgins, assisted by Maverick Petrie and Rob Grant, quickly followed by another from Pryor, assisted by Scanlan and Van Louwe.
Broomhead then scored two in a row, the first on the power play from Deven Kropf and Tyson Baker, and the second, also from Baker and Kropf.
Heading into the second, the Kings finally got themselves on the board, with a marker from Coulter, helped in by Jeff Jordan and Skinner just 43 seconds in. Stratford answered back with a shorthanded goal from Baker.
The third started on a high note for Elmira with a power play goal from Jordan, assisted by Moggy and Klayton Hoelscher. Stratford scored their sixth of the game on the power play from Kropf (Baker, Leahy).
At 11:21 into the third, Maksymyk put one to the back of the net with help from Ryley Cribbin and Zac Cameron, but the final push wasn’t enough. Stratford’s Scanlan scored the team’s seventh goal of the night on the Kings’ empty net.
The series returned to Elmira Wednesday night, but scores were not available before press time.
The team will be visiting Stratford for what could be the last game in the series on Friday night. If the team pushes a Game 6 with a win this week, the Kings will be coming back home at 7 p.m. on Mar. 27.