Overcoming the three-time reigning Sutherland Cup champions is no easy task, but that’s exactly what the Elmira Sugar Kings did.
The Caledonia Corvairs seemed like a shoe-in to take the cup again, if you looked at their record – three Sutherland Cup wins in as many years.
But on Sunday, Elmira took the chance for Caledonia to have a fourth straight cup away from them, with a 3-2 win in Game 6 of the semi-finals.
Caledonia came out strong on Sunday, pulling ahead 1-0 in the first on a power play goal from Brandon Lindberg, assisted by Mike Baird.
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Less than a minute into the second frame, Quentin Maksimovich added to their tally, helped by Trent Mallette and Jamey Lauzon.
That seemed to get Elmira’s wheels rolling, as over the span of seven minutes, the Kings were able to pull ahead with goals from Mitch Hoelscher (Jake Brown, Ethan Skinner), Jacob Black (Anthony Azzano, Zack Cameron) and Skinner (Brown).
“We’ve been down by a goal a lot in the playoffs after the first period. Our guys were used to that situation and it wasn’t a tough spot for us and we were scrambling, we just had to keep building off each period and that’s what we tried to do on Sunday as well,” said head coach Ty Canal.
Elmira was able to hold Caledonia through the final 20 minutes, despite being outshot, to take the series and earn a trip to the Sutherland Cup finals.
“I thought we played pretty well. They’re a good hockey team and they’ve been there before so we definitely just took a step back and found within the dressing room what we needed to do to be successful and everyone all got on the same page,” said Canal.
“The big thing was trying to limit their scoring chances and limit their odd-man rushes as best we can.”
He commends his players for taking the series in Game 6 and buying into the coaches’ plan.
“Everybody wanted to do whatever it took to win that series. It was definitely a good team effort there,” Canal said, noting players like Ty Biles and Brown pulled their weight blocking shots to keep pucks away from the net.
Elmira began their series with Caledonia with a 2-0 series lead, before Caledonia defeated Elmira on Apr. 18. They returned to Elmira the following night where Elmira earned their third win with a 4-3 finish.
Klayton Hoelscher’s hat trick, plus an assist paced the Kings to the 4-3 win. Elmira’s other goal came from Brown, and helpers were Quinten Bruce, Jeff Jordan (2) and Ty Biles.
Corvairs goals came from Brandon Lindberg (Eddie Schulz, Adam Craievich) twice in the first frame, and Ryan Punkari (Bailey Fletcher, Cole Mayo) in the second.
Jonathan Reinhart made 44 saves for Elmira.
In Caledonia for Game 5, the Kings were defeated 2-0 by Caledonia, who had their backs against the wall. Both goals came on the power play, one from Craievich (Lindberg, Maksimovich) in the first, and the second from Maksimovich (Mallette, Zachary Core) in the second. Elmira ran into penalty trouble, accumulating 51 penalty minutes to Caledonia’s 17.
Canal says the Elmira group played well in the Caledonia series as well as the Listowel series, but believes the difference was they created more scoring chances against Caledonia.
“I thought defensively we played well in both series. We tried to keep both teams to the outside as best we can and then when we do get our scoring chances, bear down. I think we had a couple more odd man rushes, and you had to bear down especially against both teams because they both have firepower,” Canal said.
He says everyone was doing the little things that needed to be done.
“Black, McIntyre and Cameron, they never stop skating. That was big for us. They played consistent and that opened up space for everybody else too.”
The Sugar Kings will face off against the London Nationals for a best-of-seven series to see who will be the new Sutherland Cup champion. London defeated the Listowel Cyclones in Game 5 to advance to the finals.
“We’ll make sure we’re prepared for that series and the big thing is the guys are ready.”
The first game was in London on Wednesday night, though the score was not available before press time. Game 2 is 7:30 p.m. in London on Apr. 29. Game 3 is in Elmira on Apr. 30 at 7 p.m., and Game 4 is in Elmira on May 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Kings fans looking to attend the games in London can jump on the fan bus to cheer on their team. More information is available at www.elmirakings.pointstreaksites.com.