The Elmira Sugar Kings are now just two points behind Listowel after two wins and a loss over the weekend.
Starting off the weekend in Stratford, the Kings overcame the Warriors 5-1, with a big performance from goalie Jon Reinhart who made 52 saves.
“Jonny was good, he kept us in the game. That’s the beauty with him, he gives you a chance to win every night and Friday was definitely one of those,” said head coach Ty Canal.
The Warriors took an early lead with a goal from Jack Scanlan, assisted by Ryan Nicholson and Kameron Shearer, but Reinhart wouldn’t let anything in for the rest of the game.
Elmira finished the first with goals from Ethan Skinner, Keanan Stewart and Jake Brown. Mitch Hoelscher, Jeff Jordan (2), Klayton Hoelscher, Skinner and Austin Ulett picked up assists.
The second period saw no scoring, despite the Kings spending six minutes shorthanded.
In the third, Brown (Skinner, Dawson Shackelton) and Josh Slegers (Stewart, Jordan) scored to solidify the win for Elmira.
Canal notes they may have got the two points, but it wasn’t their best game by far.
“I thought there was a lot of things we need to improve on after that game. We gave up way too many odd-man rushes, way too many turnovers, way, way too many shots,” Canal said.
The Kings couldn’t pull out a win in Brantford the next night, where three third period goals from the 99ers left the Kings with a 4-2 loss.
The first period was scoreless. The Kings took a 2-0 lead in the first half of the second frame with goals from Klayton Hoelscher (Zack Cameron, Ty Biles) and Jeremey Goodwin (Skinner). Brantford’s Mike Finger (Max Racicot, Kevin Bray) got his team on the board.
Hunter Dubecki (Derek Seguin, Joel Nagy) tied the game less than two minutes into the final frame. Nick Visser (Jay Dekker, Racicot) scored to pull Brantford ahead. And an empty net goal with one second to spare from Kyle West sent the Kings packing with a loss.
“We weren’t doing the little things. They have a team that can put the puck in the net. They compete, they skate hard. We were second to the puck a lot of the night and that goes a long ways when you have to chase in all three zones and that’s what we ended up doing,” Canal said.
Gunning for redemption, the Kings returned home on Sunday afternoon for a tightly matched game against the Cambridge Winter Hawks, who are chasing Elmira for second place. Canal says they were more focused on bouncing back from Saturday’s loss than worrying about the standings.
“I think that was more important to see in how that reaction was going to be for our guys, whether they have that short memory or whether they carry it on that extra day,” Canal said.
They ended up with a 2-0 win, but for much of the game it seemed it could go either way.
Elmira’s Matt Murray sniped one past Ryan Wagner to put his team on the board late in the first. Goodwin and Jordan assisted.
There was no scoring in the second, despite Sugar King Jacob Buch being awarded a penalty shot after Mason Sinkeldam – a former Sugar King – was called for hooking.
Both goalies were vigilant for the final 20, and it was only when the Winter Hawks pulled the goalie in an attempt to tie the game that Elmira was able to add one more goal, an empty netter from Skinner.
Reinhart made 43 saves for the shutout win, and was the player who stood out the most to Canal for an excellent weekend. Canal notes there’s a calming effect knowing he’s in net.
“Now we’ve just got to try to build intensity and momentum off of it. When he’s playing that well we can’t be giving up more and more chances or more and more scoring opportunities because we know he’s back there.”
The Sugar Kings are back in action tonight (Thursday) for a 7:30 p.m. game in Brantford. They’ll head to Guelph on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. matchup with the Hurricanes and they’re back on home ice on Sunday for a 2 p.m. matinee, hosting Cambridge again.