With key parts of the team aging out of league, Kings management has much to do in the offseason
The Elmira Sugar Kings bid adieu to six of their veteran players last week with their semi-final loss to the Stratford Cullitons.
This was the final season of junior hockey for Zac Coulter, Rob Kohli, Jake Moggy, Mackenzie MacSorley, Kalob Witzell and Kevin Fitzpatrick.
While all were integral to the team’s success this year, Coulter and Kohli stand out for their dedication to the team.
“I don’t know that we’ll see many guys like that,” said Elmira’s director of hockey operations, Jeff Snyder.
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“They both played four years in Elmira. I don’t know that we’ll see that very often anymore. And they were both such key contributors to us and just represent the type of player that we want in Elmira. They’re both great team guys, more than willing to be involved in the community and do their work and understand how important that is to the Sugar King organization.”
Coulter set records in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League for both most games played (second overall) and total points (third overall). Snyder says he was an offensive contributor for the team ever since they acquired him. He was one of the assistant captains this year, along with Moggy and Ethan Skinner.
“I just thought he improved so much in the rest of his game beside scoring and he did such a great job helping to lead our new guys this year. We had so many new guys to try to break in and he set a great example,” Snyder said.
And the same goes for Kohli who was an assistant captain last year and wore the big C this year.
“Again, he just epitomized what we want our Sugar King players to be like. I think he played the best hockey that he’s played for us in the playoffs this year. He’s always been a really good player but he really stepped it up in the playoffs,” Snyder said.
It was hard to fathom when the GOJHL Mid-Western Conference named its all-star teams why Coulter was left off the list.
“It’s very disappointing. I thought for sure he would be on the all-star team for the league. I understand it’s tough competition, but I think he led our conference in goals and was second in the whole GOJHL. I was very disappointed that he didn’t get recognized for that. I thought he was one of the most dangerous players in our league and for whatever reason he just didn’t get voted in. I thought he deserved a lot better than that,” Snyder said.
He notes Connor Cole from the Kitchener Dutchmen was fourth in the whole GOJHL, and didn’t get in either.
“But it just goes to show you sometimes when there’s voting involved how there can be other agendas involved, maybe,” Snyder said.
He adds he thought Coulter would be recognized last year and when that didn’t happen he was sure it would this year.
Snyder explains why Coulter and Kohli stuck with the team for so long, while many players switch from year to year.
“We just did our exit interviews with our players the other night and you ask players about how they liked it in Elmira and to a man everybody said they loved it. They get treated great by the organization, the fan support’s awesome. We have that meal after the home games up in the front room and they loved that. I think they just feel a real part of their community and I think they also know what to expect from year to year at Elmira. We try to be competitive every year, but they know they’re going to get treated fairly and I think that means a lot to them,” Snyder said.
Head coach Ty Canal notes Coulter and Kohli will be missed next season, as the team looks to fill at least seven spots on the team.
“It’s impressive to play that long in a league and especially for as long as he did with the one team. I think the big thing with those guys is they competed and they played for one another and I think that really showed to the young guys, which is a huge benefit. They didn’t take nights off. They didn’t take practices off. They wanted to be a team player and they wanted to win as a team and stay together as a team and it started with those guys for sure that have been in the league for awhile. I think it definitely translated as we got closer to the playoffs and through the playoffs.”
The Kings added MacSorley, Moggy, Witzell and Fitzpatrick to their roster this year, despite it being their last year of junior hockey eligibility. He says adding MacSorley back in October was a huge addition to the team.
“He was a tremendous player for us and again was a great kid, which we are always looking for. He became available and we pursued him and he had a number of teams obviously interested in him but he chose to come to Elmira. I thought he was just a great fit for our team. He did everything that was asked of him and more. It’s great to get those kids involved in your organization if you can,” Snyder said.
He says they were feeling like their team was on the younger side and they needed some more veteran players to round out the group.
“I would think he’s one of the fastest guys that ever played for us,” Snyder adds.
When Snyder took over as director of hockey operations at the end of last season he immediately thought of hometown boy Moggy who was playing for Cambridge at the time.
“I thought right away I’d really like to get him back to Elmira to finish his career in Elmira. I really think it’s important that if there’s guys from Elmira who can play in the league and he certainly can, we’d like to get them on our team. I think he was really thankful to finish his career in Elmira as well,” Snyder said.
Coulter is considering playing hockey at the university level or at Division 3 schools in the U.S. Kohli is also looking at playing university hockey.
MacSorley’s thinking about transferring from Conestoga College to play university hockey as well. Witzell may try out for the Wilfrid Laurier University team, as a current student there. Moggy might play for the University of Guelph team, where he’s a student. Fitzpatrick is looking at Division 3 schools.
“They’re all looking to continue their careers at school. Hopefully it works out for them. Division 3 in the states is kind of an expensive proposition sometimes so they have to weigh that out too,” Snyder said.
Sugar Kings defenceman Alex Peterson was signed by the Kitchener Rangers on Mar. 31. He was the team’s ninth round pick (171st overall) in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.
He had a Division 1 offer at a school in the U.S. but decided to pursue hockey with the Rangers.
“I think he’s got a bright future in the game as well, Snyder said.
The Sugar Kings scouts are already busy recruiting. They expect a good base to return next year. Zack Cameron played 10 games for them this year and they expect him to be a good player for them next season.
They could potentially add Klayton Hoelscher’s brother Mitch to the team, but Snyder says he might go fairly high in the OHL draft on Saturday.
Regardless, Snyder says they’re looking forward to a competitive 2016-17 season.
“We’re excited about next year.”