The Elmira Sugar Kings may have lost out on the Cherrey Cup for this year, but they’ve already got their eyes on the next prize – the Sutherland Cup.
Sunday’s 3-0 Game 6 win for Listowel earned the Cyclones the Cherrey Cup. But the season is not over just yet, which must come as a relief to those Sugar Kings playing in their final year of junior hockey.
With the best playoff winning percentage and goal differential of the teams who lost in the finals of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), the Sugar Kings earned their spot in the Sutherland Cup semi-finals as the wildcard team.
Elmira and St. Catharines were tied for the winning percentage, so it came down to a goal differential percentage after Game 6.
They’ll face Caledonia in the semi-finals which got rolling today (Apr. 13) in Caledonia. Caledonia has won the Sutherland Cup for the past three years.
“We’re fortunate enough that we can still play so we’ve got to try to regroup this week and get ready for Game 1,” said head coach Ty Canal.
He says the coaching staff knew it was a possibility heading into Sunday’s game if they lost, but nothing was set in stone – and the goal was to win and head to Game 7 – so they didn’t tell the players, which was evident from their faces as they came off the ice after the loss.
“The guys were ready to go and we were definitely trying to force Game 7 and the guys were upset after the loss. It’s tough to lose a series like that. All the games were close. It’s tough, for sure. It definitely feels like a loss, whether we got into the wildcard or not,” Canal said.
Elmira started the series with Listowel with two wins, before Listowel came back to win four straight. This is exactly what Elmira did to Kitchener in the semi-finals, where the Dutchmen had a two-game lead before the Kings took it in six.
Last Friday in Listowel for Game 5, the Cyclones took the game 2-1 in overtime. Listowel struck first with a late goal in the second from Holdyn Lansink, assisted by Tommy Hoogars.
Elmira’s Jacob Black evened the playing field five minutes into the third frame, helped in by Zack Cameron and Andrew McIntyre.
In overtime, while Spencer Comelli was sitting out on a holding call, Listowel took advantage of the power play opportunity and Jakob Lee scored (Lansink, Cullen Mercer) to give Listowel a 3-2 lead in the Cherrey Cup final, their first lead in the series.
“Close games, they’re tough on both sides. I thought we played well. As the games went on I thought we got better between the first and the second and the second and the third. Friday night I thought we played really well. If it wasn’t our best, it was one of our top games against them on Friday,” Canal said.
Back home in Elmira Sunday evening, it was do or die for the Kings. More than 1,500 people packed into the Dan Snyder Arena where it was standing room only, to see if Listowel would take the cup, or if Elmira would live to see another day.
But the Cyclones came ready to play, blanking the Sugar Kings 3-0 to take the cup for only the second time in Listowel’s franchise history.
In the first period, while Tyler McBay was out for high sticking, Listowel’s Mercer put his team on the board. Max Coyle and Lansink provided assists.
The second period saw no scoring. In the third, Listowel increased their lead with a goal from Lansink, helped in by Lee. And in the final minutes when Elmira pulled goalie Jon Reinhart to add an attacker, Lansink found the puck again and scored on the empty net to take the game.
“I don’t know what the real difference was. We got shots on net, we didn’t get a lot of odd man rushes or that type of off the rush. We tried to adapt to what Listowel was giving us too. We knew we had to get pucks in low and in the second period [Sunday] night I thought we did that well,” Canal said.
Canal says this series was a full-team effort, from Klayton Hoelscher playing good defensive hockey to Jacob Black stepping up in the faceoff circle.
“McIntyre, he doesn’t take anything off. So he’s always skating, he’s always working. Jonny [Reinhart] I thought played well as well, kept us in games. When we had a few little breakdowns, Jon was there. Brown was playing two ways, Jordy was all over the ice. Cameron played a good two-way game.”
Game 2 is in Elmira on Sunday at 7 p.m., followed by Game 3 on Apr. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Caledonia, and Game 4 on Apr. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Elmira. Games 5, 6 and 7 will be played if necessary. Listowel will face the winner of the western conference, the London Nationals in the semi-finals.