The Elmira Sugar Kings’ season has officially begun with a win and a loss at the GOJHL Showcase in London over the weekend. The team also named its new captain and assistants.
Coaches chose Jeff Jordan as captain. Assistant captains are Quinten Bruce, Josh Slegers and Jake Brown.
Head coach Ty Canal says now they’re focusing the team on playing how they know they can, and making sure everybody’s on the same page.
“I think the weekend definitely showed us how we can play and things that when we weren’t doing, the game doesn’t go in our favour. I think it was a good learning weekend,” Canal said.
Andrew McIntyre opened the Sugar Kings’ regular season scoring against Strathroy early in the first period on a power play. Klayton Hoelscher and Anthony Azzano picked up the assists.
Hoelscher increased the lead with his own goal five minutes later, with Azzano assisting again.
Another power play opportunity proved fruitful late in the first as Slegers knocked back Elmira’s third goal, helped by Bruce and Jordan.
The Rockets’ Max Ewart scored at 13:39 in the second frame to get his team on the board. Cole Dezainde assisted.
The Kings pulled ahead to a 4-1 lead with six seconds to go in the period as Zack Cameron scored, assisted by Kyle Soper and Keanan Stewart.
A short-handed goal from Strathroy’s Cody Schneider in the third period brought the final score to 4-2 in Elmira’s favour.
“I thought we played pretty well. Certain situations we were moving the puck, we were skating with speed. Guys seemed to play well together. It was good to watch. Obviously we missed on some opportunities and that’s going to happen. It was nice to come out with a win in the first game,” Canal said.
Jonathan Reinhart made 24 saves, to Strathroy netminder Dan Davies’ 29.
The Elmira group spent too much time in the penalty box for Canal’s liking, 20 minutes out of the 60-minute game. They ran into similar trouble against the Leamington Flyers on Sunday, spending 28 minutes in the penalty box.
“We were shorthanded way too much this week. That takes momentum out of the game. Our penalty kill was pretty strong but we were short 15 times over the weekend, which is way, way too much, especially for how we want to play,” Canal said.
He adds penalties happen when you start chasing the puck instead of controlling the play, something they’ll be working on for the upcoming games.
They lost a close 2-1 decision to Leamington on Sunday.
It took half the game for either team to get the puck past the opposing goalie. The Flyers’ Josh Pope-Ferguson (Mark Gangnon) scored at 14:43 in the second on a power play.
Elmira’s Slegers (Bruce, Jordan) evened the score with his own power play marker late in the period.
Leamington scored in the third on a short-handed goal from Blake Bain (Brayden Klemens) to take the game.
Tyler Mazzocato got his chance in net for Elmira, stopping 25 shots. Strathroy’s Connor Meyerink saved 25 as well.
“That game we played different for some reason. The guys were trying to do too much and trying to put more weight on individual shoulders than not but you could see some situations when we played as a team and what we’re capable of, we played some good hockey, ” Canal said.
They played with the same lines all weekend and they could see some guys starting to get comfortable with each other, knowing where the other would be on the ice. They still plan to change up lines regularly.
“I think the more you get to play with new guys it keeps you on your toes and gets you talking. It keeps the group together more I think,” Canal said.
Mitch Hoelscher was picked up by the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL Priority Draft earlier this year and officially signed a contract with the team last weekend. He’ll still be suiting up for Elmira, but if the Ottawa team needs him they’ll call him back up.
“As of right now he’s with us. [Alex] Peterson did that last year too, he signed with Kitchener but stayed with us,” Canal explained.
The Elmira squad faces the Listowel Cyclones next on Friday (Sept. 16) at 7:30 p.m. in Listowel.
The Sugar Kings host their home opener this Sunday (Sept. 18) at 2 p.m. at the Woolwich Memorial Centre against the Stratford Warriors.