After squeaking into the wildcard spot for the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Sutherland Cup, the Elmira Sugar Kings have won the first two games of the semifinals before dropping Game 3 to the Caledonia Corvairs on Tuesday night.
The two teams were right back at it Wednesday night, but results weren’t available before press time.
It’s a first-time matchup for the two teams from different conferences, Elmira in the Midwestern Conference and Caledonia from the Golden Horseshoe Conference.
The Kings skated to a 2-1 win in Game 1 and a 1-0 win in Game 2 before falling 3-0 on Apr. 18.
Caledonia’s three goals were scored by Zachary Core in the first period, Griffin Roubos in the second and Brandon Lindberg in the third, bringing the final score to 3-0 on Tuesday night.
Elmira’s head coach, Ty Canal, says the speed he saw in the first two games of the series just wasn’t there this time around.
“We knew it was going to be a tough series, there is no doubt about that. We know they are a good hockey team,” he said. “I thought we played a little on our heels compared to the first two games. We weren’t playing as fast with the puck as we needed to be, and we weren’t going as quickly as we were in the previous games.”
He says the team just didn’t have enough shots to secure the win.
“We just gave them a little bit more time and space than Game 1 and 2. They were able to get on the forecheck harder than previously, and get to the puck,” said Canal. “We had some scoring chances, especially in the first period, but we weren’t moving up as quick. We just didn’t have it last night. We weren’t getting the puck to the net like we were in the first couple games, and the shots weren’t there.”
Following the first two wins, Canal says the team has to look at how they work rather than the competition when it comes to facing a team they aren’t familiar with.
“It is tough. I mean, we only knew a little bit about them. We knew some of the players, but we really just went back to looking at our team and seeing what makes us play well and what makes us stay in the game,” he said. “We just try to come out of the gate and adjust as we went through the games.”
Game 1 in the series, on Apr. 13, started with a Caledonia goal in the second period from Jamey Lauzon, helped in by Cole Mayo and Trent Mallette.
Elmira’s Klayton Hoelscher tied it up on the power play while Caledonia’s Lauzon was in the box for boarding at 17 seconds into the third period. Jacob Black gave Elmira the lead with a goal at 14:05 in the third, assisted by Austin Ulett and Andrew McIntyre.
Goalie Jonathan Reinhart made 30 saves in the win.
The puck dropped for Game 2 on Apr. 16 in Elmira. It was a one-goal game with the only marker coming from Quinten Bruce on the power play at 6:35 in the third period.
The score could have been higher, but two goals, one for Caledonia and one for Elmira, were called back by referees. Ethan Skinner nearly brought the count to two, but the whistle was blown as he released the shot. Caledonia nearly notched their own goal, but the puck was put past Reinhart off a high stick.
Canal says the team has been doing what they need to do in order to put the ticks in the win column for the series, and now, they just need to build off that.
“They were both one-goal games, tight right to the end, and Jonny had some great saves for us when we needed them, and timely goals in both games and our guys are skilled and they are quick and the big thing right now is that we are just trying to limit Caledonia’s time and space and we are doing pretty good at that,” he said.
The Sugar Kings have also been trying to keep the play to five-on-five, with only 25 penalty minutes over the first two games.
“Caledonia is a good hockey team and anytime you give them power plays, if they don’t score, they are still gaining momentum off it,” said Canal. “We have to try and limit that, staying with the flow of the game, and we want that consistent five-on-five. You just have to try and stay out of the box with them. They are skilled and they have a lot of really good hockey players, and anytime you are shorthanded, you are giving them some type of opportunity, whether it is scoring chances, momentum, or even goals.”
The Black, McIntyre and Zack Cameron line has really benefitted the team, with a goal in Game 1. Canal says the rest of the team feeds off that energy.
“In Game 1, with Black’s goal, the whole shift was about speed, with McIntyre and Cameron and Black, they were all in good spots. They didn’t try and do too much, but were all over the puck and we just have to try and keep that going,” he said. “That line has played well. I think the big thing is that they have picked up their defensive game. They have worked harder in the defensive zone and made it simpler and that has translated into offense for them, into time in the offensive zone. It has really clicked with them. It has been working out nicely.”
The Sugar Kings faced the Corvairs last night, Apr. 19, but results were not available as of press time.
Game 5 is set for Apr. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Caledonia. Game 6, if required, brings the series back to Elmira at 2 p.m. on Apr. 23. Game 7 is scheduled for Apr. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
If Elmira wins the series, they will be facing either their Cherrey Cup opponents, the Listowel Cyclones, or the London Nationals from the Western Conference.