Wrapping up the preseason with a 4-2 win over the Cambridge Winter Hawks on Sept. 3, the Elmira Sugar Kings are off to London this weekend to start the regular season with two games at the Western Fairgrounds Arena.
They’ll face Strathroy on Saturday, followed by Leamington on Sunday.
The Elmira squad won four out of their five preseason games. And while the wins don’t mean anything in the standings, head coach Ty Canal says the games gave the coaching staff a chance to evaluate the skills of their individual players.
“Especially with some of the new guys, we’re just trying to see how the guys compete, how they work, the type of players we think they can be and try to find some chemistry, try to get the guys comfortable with one another. And really that’s more important than the record when it comes to preseason,” Canal said.
He says they were pleased with the team’s level of play. They had a different lineup of players at each game, with some sitting out to attend OHL camps. Most players hit the ice for two or three games.
“You could start to see the guys get more comfortable, especially the last one, the guys starting to get more comfortable with each other and just get comfortable with the speed and the pace the league is and how we want to play. It was nice to see that come along in those five games.”
He says the roster has been completed. They’ll be working on their systems for the three practices before they hit the road for London. Canal says they’ll also focus on keeping their compete level up throughout three periods, which doesn’t necessarily happen in the preseason.
“We’ve just got to make sure our guys are prepared for the 60 minutes and everyone’s all on the same page with systems and just make sure that the guys are excited to get going. I know it’s a fun time of year, especially when it’s away at London. I think the guys like getting away and we play different teams that we don’t see in the regular season, I think the guys will be excited, hopefully ready to go,” Canal said.
He thinks they’ve put together a competitive team for the 2016-17 season and they should be tough to play against. The coaches now have to ensure their players are improving at each and every practice and game.
They’re still trying out various lines to see which players work well together. And he expects they’ll name the captain and assistants after their games in London, for sure within the next two weeks. They’re not rushing it.
“I think we have a good combination. We’ve got some good veterans, we’ve got some good returning players and we’ve got some young guys that are quick and they’ve got a lot of skill. It should be fun to find some combinations and see what they can do on the ice together,” Canal said.
The Sugar Kings’ home opener is Sept. 18 at 2 p.m. at the WMC versus the Stratford Warriors.