The Kings bounced back from a 6-3 loss November 16 in Brantford to play stingy host to Waterloo and Kitchener over the weekend, posting wins of 3-1 and 2-1 respectively.
In Brantford, the 99ers scored early and never relinquished the lead en route to the win. Two goals in the span of 78 seconds, the only scoring of the first period, set the tone for the match.
“Thursday, we just didn’t look right,” said head coach Trent Brown about the take away. “We didn’t look right from the drop of the puck, and I think our captain said it best after the game that we seem to take two steps forward and one step back when we play Brantford every time.”
Up 2-0 within the first six minutes of play, the 99ers get up the pace, unabated by the intermission. Five minutes into the second, Brantford scored their third of the match, placing them almost out of reach. The Kings finally got on the board when Matt MacKay scored at 11:55, assisted by Spencer Comelli.
Any hope for a comeback was extinguished when Brantford made it 4-1 on a shorthanded goal with 1:16 to go in the period.
The Kings entered the third frame facing heavy odds, and the gap only got wider when Brantford potted their fifth at 13:11. Ethan Skinner (Ryan Takamatsu, Mason McMahon) pushed back at 16:46 with Elmira’s second goal. The trio then scored again at 18:20, with Takamatsu burying it this time.
With 90 seconds on the clock and down by two, Elmira pulled netminder Tyler Mazzocato for an extra attacker. In keeping with the rest of the game, it was the 99ers who capitalized, putting one into the empty net to round out the scoring at 6-3.
The Kings have had a curious history with 99ers this season. Despite being in last place in the Midwestern Conference, Brantford has beaten the fourth-place Kings in two out of three games.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Brown. “We’re working on becoming an all-the-time team. Currently we’re still just a sometimes team and, really, we’ve got to straighten that out before it gets too late here.”
The weekend brought play that was more to the coach’s liking.
On Saturday, the Kings welcomed the Waterloo Siskins to the WMC. The two teams were evenly matched for most of the opening frame, each racking up plenty of chances – shots were 16-13 for the visitors – but it wasn’t until the final minute that there was any scoring. With the Kings up two skaters due to Waterloo penalties, Zack Cameron scored, with Skinner and goalie Rhett Kimmel getting assists.
Special teams were the difference again in the second, as the period’s lone goal came off the stick of Takamatsu (Tyler McBay) on a power play at 2:24.
The Kings ran into penalty trouble of their own, but Waterloo was unable to capitalize. Jeremey Goodwin got into some trouble soon after with a head contact penalty and an abuse of officials. Then at 7:45, he was charged with his second misconduct of the match. The Kings still held their own and gave no quarter for the remainder of the period.
Entering into the final 20 minutes of play down 2-0, the Siskins were able to mount a limited comeback with a goal at 6:15, but that was it. Elmira’s Keanan Stewart (Niki Molson, McBay) restored the two-goal lead three minutes later, and that was that.
The Kings capitalizing on two of their six power plays and killing all seven penalties against them proved to be the difference.
“That game was excellent for us special teams-wise. Whenever you win the special teams battle you give yourself a great chance to win a game. It’s not everything, but it certainly helps,” noted Brown.
Sunday’s game against the Kitchener Dutchmen was the closest of the Kings’ three battles. Widely outshot over the course of the game – 32-17 – the Kings took advantage of their chances while riding Kimmel’s stellar goaltending to the 2-1 win.
“That might be the first game of the year where our goalie stole the game for us. I’m not saying that we haven’t got good goaltending all year, but that individual position actually won us two points. I think that might be the first time that happened this year,” said Brown.
Kimmel, however, was modest about it.
“Well, luck definitely helped out a bit there,” he said after the game.
“I think confidence is really key for my game, so when I’m feeling confident, I think that’s when everything comes into play. And like I said the boys helped me out – the PK was great, and I think that’s where we won our game. So all in all, everything was turning into a great game for us,” said Kimmel.
Elmira drew first blood when Skinner (Goodwin, McBay) scored just past the midway point of the period, which ended with the home team up 1-0 despite being outshot 13-7.
The teams exchanged goals in the second, with the visitors again putting up more shots, 12-7. Biles scored on an Elmira power play at 9:42 to make it 2-0 before scored what would be the last of the match some five minutes later. The 2-1 score would hold up, but not before a final showdown in the third.
The Kings were holding onto a narrow lead, and a single slip up could cost them the game. Tempers were flared, with a fight breaking out seven minutes in, and Elmira taking a penalty for head contact a minute later.
Both teams in tight, scoring chances did not abound – shots were 7-5 for Kitchener – and not even the visitors’ goalie sitting on the bench changed things.
“Yeah, the last minute, it was a bit scrambly,” admitted Biles. “But we played well, we played well defensively. Rhett [Kimmel] stood on his head the last second there; the guy had a wide open shot and he made the save, so he was amazing.”
With the Kings posting back-to-back wins over the weekend, fans are going to want to hope the team can keep that forward momentum going throughout the upcoming set of games. It will be a tough week as the Kings are returning this evening (Thursday) to the Brantford arena for another go at the 99ers. Then Sunday night, the Kings will be back on home ice to face off against the top dogs of the division, the Listowel Cyclones (19-4).
“We’re definitely going to be looking to get a little bit of revenge on Brantford,” said Kimmel. “They’re a tough team, they’re definitely competing now.”