The Elmira Sugar Kings skated to a winning weekend, with the coach particularly happy with how his team is coming together with the postseason on the horizon.
Ty Canal’s charges posted a 4-2 win in Waterloo Saturday, followed by a 4-1 vanquishing of Guelph back at the WMC on Sunday.
Special teams were the difference over the weekend, starting with the power play Saturday night in Waterloo, said Canal.
“I think the big thing is that we found a way to win. We played pretty well in the third period, even though we got off to a slow start,” he said, adding that three out of four Kings’ goals were on the power play. “Special teams are always big, especially in close games. It is usually how you win or lose. We have been putting a lot of focus on both sides, the penalty kill and the power play. We need to stay as level as we can but put pressure on both sides at the same time.”
Elmira’s Jake Brown started the count in Waterloo with his team up a man, assisted by Jeff Jordan and newcomer Jeremey Goodwin. Waterloo tied it up just a couple of minutes later with one from Lucas Goodman, also on the power play.
The second period saw no scoring.
In the third, the Siskins took the lead less than 30 seconds in with a goal from Sam Cherry, but the lead was short-lived. Mitch Hoelscher took advantage of another power play to tie it up at 2-2, assisted by Brown and Goodwin. Klayton Hoelscher gave the Kings the lead, also on the powerplay, with help from Tyler McBay and Josh Slegers. Goodwin clinched the Kings’ win with an empty-netter with only 45 seconds left.
On Sunday afternoon, the Kings hosted a matinee game against the Guelph Hurricanes, skating to a 4-1 victory.
The home side was down 1-0 at the end of the first, but Canal says the score didn’t reflect the level of play he saw from his squad.
“I think it was tight for the most part. There were some hits, there were some odd-man rushes back and forth, but that speed is how we want to play and the type of hockey that we can be successful at. I was glad to see it,” he said. “I think our start was really good even though we were down in the first. I thought that first 10 or 15 minutes we played really well. We didn’t do that on Saturday so seeing that on Sunday was something that we needed. We took that momentum for the rest of the game.”
Once again, the power play clicked for the Kings, with three of their four goals coming while they had the man advantage.
Jordan started scoring for the Kings, just a few minutes into the second, tying it up. The team wasn’t satisfied with that, however. Mitch Hoelscher, assisted by Goodwin and Jacob Black, scored on the power play just a few minutes later. Brown scored the third goal for the Kings, also with a Hurricane in the box. The goal was assisted by Mitch Hoelscher and Goodwin. Jordan came through for the Kings again in the third period, with a marker from Brown and Black. That would be it for scoring from both sides, earning the Kings the two points.
The team currently sits second in the conference, behind the Listowel Cyclones. The Kings have two games in hand, and are only four points back from the top spot. Canal says their standing in the league isn’t something he is focusing on at the moment.
“Honestly, we just have to make sure that kind of stuff is going to take care of itself. We can’t control what the other teams are doing, so we just have to make sure that our guys are playing and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “We need to try and find a way to get consistent hockey. I think on Sunday, we played well, but in the second, we gave up too many odd-man rushes and scoring chances that we definitely can’t be doing at this time of year, especially this close to the playoffs.”
Sunday’s game also marked the debut of defenseman Austin Ulett. After taking a puck to the face on his first shift with the team, Canal says he settled in nicely.
“He played with confidence, he made a good first pass, he’s got some speed and he will definitely help our back-end and hopefully solidify how we want to play in the defensive zone,” he said, adding the whole team contributed to the weekend wins. “I also think our forwards in the offensive zone were creating some cycling that we haven’t seen in a while. I thought a lot of it was coming from the first pass the defense made, or getting out of our zone quick. That gave us the scoring chances that we needed.”
This coming weekend, the Kings are playing three games in three days. It could be a daunting weekend, but Canal says the more hockey, the better.
“I think we need that, to tell you the truth. We need a stretch of hockey. We have had some weekends off, some Thursday and Sunday weeks,” he said. “We are getting close to the playoffs and we need this. It will be good for us to get into the mentality of whatever happens, you have to turn the page and get ready for the next one. We are really hoping for consistent hockey and trying to get there.”
The Kings will be in Stratford on Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. game before heading to Brantford on Saturday night for their second road game of the weekend. The team will return back home for a 7 p.m. game against the Cambridge Winter Hawks at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.