It’s off to the second round of the playoffs for the Sugar Kings, who Tuesday night completed a four-game sweep of the Guelph Hurricanes with a convincing 8-3 win on the road.
Elmira scored early and often, taking a 2-0 lead before the game was 90 seconds old. It was 4-0 by the end of the opening period. Guelph would never recover.
The Kings were economical too, racking up eight goals on just 18 shots, while the home side managed 28.
Ethan Skinner, assisted by Jake Brown and Mitch Hoelscher, set the tone by putting one behind netminder Kristian Hufsky just 36 seconds in. At 1:29 it was Zack Cameron’s turn, assisted by Ty Biles. Jake Brown (Skinner, Klayton Hoelscher) made it 3-0 on the power play at 12:53, while Jacob Black capped the first-period dominance by potting one at 13:34, with the help of Anthony Azzano and Cameron.
Guelph made a game of it for a little while, scoring three by the 11-minute mark of the middle frame, only to have the Kings respond just seconds later: Mitch Hoelscher (Skinner, Brown) extended the lead at 11:18, followed by Cameron (Andrew McIntyre, Austin Ulett) and Jeff Jordan (Quinten Bruce, McIntyre), restoring the four-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Picking up Elmira’s third power play marker, Skinner finished off the scoring with the third-period’s only goal, at 13:13, assisted by Mitch Hoelscher.
Head coach Ty Canal says Game 4 played out in the same way as the first three games in the series with a strong first and third period, but a slower second period.
“I don’t know what it was about the second period. Guelph can skate. They took it to us in the second periods and their backs were against the wall. They came out skating. Our guys were on their heels, and we couldn’t shake it. They took the momentum for the whole second period. They had that desire to score to win. Once the second period got done, we steeled down going into the third and we were able to play the style we needed.”
The series started out at home Mar. 1 with a resounding victory for Elmira, 7-2.
Elmira continued their winning streak with a 6-4 win in Guelph on Saturday, Mar. 4, and back at home on Sunday afternoon.
Canal says he is very happy to see the ticks in the W column, but there are still spots for improvement on the ice.
“I think our third periods were pretty good, obviously, being able to hold them out in those tight games. Guelph just keeps coming at you, so in those second periods we were on our heels a bit in all three games,” he said. “We were lucky to get out to there the way we did. In the third periods we were able to play more of the style that we need to play and we were able to shut them down.”
In Game 1, Elmira’s Jeremey Goodwin scored shorthanded to start things off in the first period, with McIntyre and Jordan bringing the count to three in the second.
Guelph fired back with a marker from Adel Zivojevic, but Elmira responded with a goal from Keanan Stewart. Bradley Smith scored for Guelph, but Klayton Hoelscher scored two more in response. Cameron closed out the game with an unassisted marker just before the final buzzer.
On Saturday night, the team traveled to Guelph, and while the Hurricanes managed to notch a few more goals than the previous game, the win still belonged to the Kings.
Black started the count for Elmira, followed by a goal from Guelph’s Mitchell Morrison. Jordan snuck one in on the power play with just a few seconds left in the first period, assisted by Brown and Skinner. Mitch Hoelscher scored in the second, followed by another for Guelph, coming from Lucas Dybowski.
The third period started with a 3-2 score, but Guelph quickly took the lead with goals from Ben Maidment and on the power play from Morrison.
Elmira wasn’t going to let it end that way, with Jordan scoring two more, one on Guelph’s empty net, and another from Brown. The final score was 6-4.
The boys returned home for a matinee puck drop on Sunday afternoon for Game 3.
Brown started scoring for the Kings ten minutes into the first, followed by a power play goal from Klayton Hoelscher. Guelph evened the tally with a first period marker from Zivojevic, and the lone second period goal from Morrison.
The third period saw the Kings recover from the tie game with a whopping four goals. Skinner earned himself three in a row, and OHL call-up Mitch Hoelscher made it six for Elmira with six minutes left.
The Kings still have a few holes in their roster, with some players out with injuries, but Canal says the rest of the team has really stepped up. He says Klayton Hoelscher has stood out with his clean game play and his work on both sides of the ice.
“Klayton does a lot of small things that may go unnoticed by a lot of people but he keeps his game simple, he plays well on both ends of the rink and he likes this time of the year, obviously,” he said. “He is a great guy in front of the net and that is where he gets his goals. He is being responsible defensively too, and that is really helping our team out, especially in the playoffs and in the third periods.”
It isn’t just Klayton Hoelscher that is helping the team earn more than a few victories.
“Jonny (Reinhart) played Jonny. He was consistent all series, held us in and made some timely saves for us, especially in the second periods when we needed it. Bruce played defense for us and he was great. Skinner was great. He got a lot of points. Jeff Jordan was two-way. We relied on him in defensive face-offs. It was good. Cameron scored three in the series, Mitch Hoelscher scored three and it was just a huge team effort. It is nice when you can get that kind of scoring throughout the series. I didn’t even realize that Jordan had five goals.”
Now, the team is on a break until their next opponent is announced.
“We got a couple days that we are going to take off, not in a row, but get back to some practices and trying to regroup and trying to learn from what we need to learn from the series, improve and try to build on that. Working on that second period and get some rest,” said Canal.
Elsewhere in the league conference, the Kitchener Dutchmen lead the Stratford Warriors three games to one following a 4-1 victory Tuesday night. If Kitchener wins the series, they will be the Sugar Kings’ next opponent.
The series between the Cambridge Winter Hawks and Waterloo Siskins is deadlocked at 2-2 following a Waterloo victory Mar. 7.
First place Listowel Cyclones are leading the Brantford 99ers 3-0 in round one, and will be dropping the puck for Game 4 tonight in Brantford.