With two weekend wins, the Elmira Sugar Kings are now eight points behind the first-place spot, with two games in hand.
In a battle of the first-place Cyclones, the second-place Kings came out with a decisive 6-3 victory in Listowel on Friday night.
This is the first time this season Elmira has won in Listowel’s arena.
Head coach Ty Canal says it came down to the boys playing simple hockey.
“If everyone’s on the same page and not trying to do too much and keeping things simpler I think we play better. We started that game for sure that way and we played well, we were able to skate with them,” Canal said.
Each period the Kings scored within the first three minutes.
In the first, Ty Biles sunk the puck to get things rolling. Jacob Black assisted. Jeff Jordan potted his own five minutes later, helped by Andrew McIntyre and Dawson Shackelton.
Listowel added their own from Brady Anderson (Chayse Herrfort, Jakob Lee) to give the Kings just a one-goal lead heading into the second frame.Just recently returned from an injury the previous weekend, Mitch Hoelscher is quickly contributing to the Kings. He scored 31 seconds into the second period, assisted by Jake Brown and Ethan Skinner. He added another on the power play at 15:40, helped by Brown and Jordan.
“He started shooting the puck a little bit more than what he has in the past and he can obviously score, so it was nice to see. I think he was taking his scoring chances and he was actually shooting the puck a little bit more, and being more aggressive on that front, which obviously helped him out,” Canal said.
A new addition to the Elmira lineup, Jacob Buch scored unassisted with 10 seconds to go in the period.
Hoelscher earned a hat trick with his third goal of the night less than 90 seconds into the third period. Jordan picked up the assist.
Listowel found some scoring chances with goals from Lee and Max Coyle (Danny Skinner (2), Cullen Mercer and Lee) on the power play, but it was too little too late and the Kings took the game.
Elmira goalie Jonathan Reinhart saved 31 shots to Listowel goalie Brock Baier’s 29.
The Kings returned home on Sunday night to face off against the Brantford 99ers who are in ninth place – dead last – in the league with only five wins so far this season. The Sugar Kings have as many losses this season – eight – as the 99ers have wins.
The game play didn’t reflect the standings though, as the Kings quickly found themselves down 2-0 in the first.
“I don’t think our compete and our intensity level was where we wanted it to be or need it to be for that matter. I think there was a few too many turnovers and odd man rushes. On Friday the odd man rushes weren’t there for Listowel and I think that’s a huge part for us is the odd-man rushes against, if we can limit that, that just wasn’t there Sunday for whatever reason,” Canal said.
First period Brantford goals came from Brandon Scanlin (Mike Finger, Kyle Walker) on the power play and Kevin Bray (Justin Donnelly) shorthanded.
And it wasn’t as if the Kings weren’t putting shots to the net seeing as in the first period they had 17 shots, while Brantford had just eight, but two goals out of those.
Another new Sugar Kings player turned out to be the team’s saving grace in the second period. Jeremey Goodwin scored twice to tie the game heading into the third period. Quinten Bruce, Matt Murray and Spencer Comelli assisted.
A goal from Jordan early in the third period, helped in by Hoelscher and Brown sealed the deal for the Kings, giving them a perfect four-point weekend.
Tyler Mazzocato made 26 saves on 28 shots for Elmira. Aidan Link saved 37 of 40 shots for Brantford.
Three new faces joined the Kings’ roster last week just ahead of the trade deadline. The new additions are forwards Jeremey Goodwin and Jacob Buch, and defenceman Austin Ulett.
Ulett comes from the Caledonia Corvairs, also a Junior B team in the Golden Horseshoe division. He was selected 122nd overall by the Peterborough Petes in the 2013 OHL Priority Draft.
“He’s a guy that plays hard, especially in practice he’s working hard, he’s competing, he’s pushing guys and I think that’s going to be the type that he brings to the game is just be tough to play against and make the simple, quick play,” Canal said.
Buch was picked up from the Thorold Blackhawks, a Junior B team in the Golden Horseshoe division of the GOJHL. He was drafted 95th overall by the London Knights in the 2014 OHL Priority Draft.
“He’s got some real good skill with the puck. He’s got some soft hands, he’s got some vision, he’s got patience with the puck. He’ll allow things to develop in behind and that’s going to help our power play and help in the offensive zone with some scoring chances,” Canal said.
Goodwin started this season in the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads. He previously played with the Waterloo Wolves’ AAA major midget team.
“Goodwin’s got size and speed and he works hard in all three zones. He’ll definitely bring that to the table. He can check, obviously he can score as well. He plays a hard, full ice game, which is nice,” Canal said.
He says this week they’ll be working on their one-on-one battles and turning their transition into offense when they create turnovers.
The Sugar Kings will head down the 85 to play the Waterloo Siskins on Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. They’re back at home for a 2 p.m. game on Jan. 22 against the Guelph Hurricanes. Following the game is the Sugar Kings’ annual jersey auction. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Woolwich Counselling Centre.