The Sugar Kings played host Sunday evening to the Stratford Warriors in their lone game of the week, but despite the home-barn advantage ultimately fell flat in a 4-2 decision.
The game began on an even footing, with neither side able to make a dent in the other’s defences for the first 20 minutes. The Sugar Kings were on the offensive in those first minutes, earning three power plays while offering none in return, and out-shooting Stratford 14-5. Despite the push, the scoreboard remained at a stubborn 0-0 as both teams headed into intermission.
Things got heated in the second, though not in a good way at first as 40 seconds from the puck drop Stratford found the back of the net. At 5:36, they doubled down on their lead with a second bottle knocker.
The score was 2-0 in the Warriors favour, but the game took a dramatic left turn when the visitors were slapped with a five minute penalty at 9:20. Now holding on to the man advantage, the Kings were able to swing the game back to the middle with two power play markers. Ty Biles (Matt MacKay, Damian Figueira) put the Kings up on the board at 11:08, and then Jeremey Goodwin (Ethan Wiseman, Tyler Mazzocato) tied it up at 13:39.
The two teams were now neck-and-neck with just under half the game to go. The Kings slipped up, however, when Stratford’s Jack Scanlan came in for an unassisted goal at 16:02, sending the team’s into their second intermission 3-2.
The Kings had 20 more minutes to claim the lead, or at least claw back their tie, but the bounces just weren’t coming. The penalties were few and far between, but the Kings were down a man when the Stratford Warriors scored the final goal of the evening at 9:08 on the power play. Despite a fierce rally from the Kings, they couldn’t bridge the gap between them, and the game ended in a 4-2 defeat.
“They’re a good team and they were opportunistic, I would say,” said head coach Trent Brown. “We didn’t make life very difficult for them on their first three goals. I mean the guy had a break away, he had a, you know, it was just odd-man rush after odd-man rush that they were able to capitalize on, and we didn’t defend very well and make life difficult for them.”
It was never going to be easy playing the Warriors, who are the current second-place team in the Midwestern Conference, but the Kings played a disciplined game. In power plays, the Sugar Kings were 2-8, while the Warriors went only 1-5. For shots on net, the Kings actually outdid the Warriors with 39 versus 33, though ultimately they couldn’t make them stick.
“We gave them a lot of their opportunities early. I mean credit to them, they capitalized on that. But that’s something we need to do better at,” said Brown.
It was a light week for the Kings, as the Elmira team played a single game on Sunday after an eight day break from the previous Saturday. This Family Day weekend, however, more than makes up for it as the Elmira team will be taking on three formidable opponents.
First on Friday, the Kings will head to Listowel for a 7:30 p.m. game against the first-place Cyclones. The Kings return home Sunday for a matinee with Guelph, followed by another afternoon game at home against Waterloo. The puck drop for both home games is at 2 p.m.
“Friday, the game is going to be very tough, very challenging, against Listowel there. They’re a very good team, very deep team,” noted Brown.
“Then we have Sunday at home against Guelph which is, you know, we’re talking about moving into the playoffs and playing the right way, that’s a game we need to win as well.”
With just five games left in regular season, the Kings will have to rack up some serious wins if they hope to climb in the rankings come playoffs. The team is currently sitting in fourth-place (25-20), comfortably ahead of Kitchener (21-22-1-2), and just a hair’s breadth behind third-place Waterloo (24-16-1-3).
The Kings and Waterloo Siskins have two more games to play against one another, and the outcome might very well determine which team claims ultimately claims the third-place spot.
“We have to win against Waterloo, we’re fighting for that spot,” said Brown. “So you know, it’ll be a challenge for the guys, but the other team’s got to play the game too. So it’s a matter of who’s going to prepare best and who’s going to execute the best.”
Besides that, the Kings will also be holding an autograph signing from 11 to 11:45 a.m. before Monday’s game at the arena.
“So they’ll be there with their jerseys on and they’ll have pens and papers handy. All the people who want some autographs can meet and greet the players,” said Brown.