A sweep of their first-round series over Brampton afforded the Elmira Sugar Kings an 11-day interlude before games resume Friday night in Stratford.
Whether that’s led to a good rest, a bit of rust or somewhere in between remains to be seen.
Still, the Kings were happy to complete the elimination of the Bombers in four straight games with a 5-0 win March 7 at the WMC. The win also marked netminder Tyler Mazzocato’s first shutout of the 2017-18 season.
Entering into the fourth game of the playoffs, the Kings had to have been feeling pretty confident with their track record. In their first playoff match against the Bombers, the Brampton team had put three goals into the Kings’ net. In the second, the Bombers scored just twice. And in the third, only one found the back of the net. It was 3, 2, 1, and all signs were pointing to a 0 this time around.
“I thought that was a great series for us. I think we got better every game, culminating with the last game, of course,” said head coach Trent Brown. “Our offensive output was pretty steady. That to me just looks like we got better defensively every game and that helps us play offense as well.”
Opening the shooting frenzy last Wednesday was Jeremey Goodwin, just five-minutes from the puck-drop, with Ethan Skinner and Kurtis Goodwin picking up the assist. For the second point, Brampton was down a man to the box, giving Marcel Berube (J. Goodwin, Ethan Skinner) the opportunity for a power play marker at 9:44.
Opening the second frame up 2-0, the Kings pressed the attack with yet another bottle-knocker seven minutes in, this time potted by Ethan Wiseman (J. Goodwin, Braydon Munn). The game was getting heated as both teams started racking up the infractions.
That would be all the scoring until the third frame, when, at 9:06, Jeff Jordan came in for the Kings’ second power play of the match, with Ryan Takamatsu and defenseman Damian Figueira this time picking up assists.The Kings were up 4-0 with only 11 minutes left on the clock. Both the Kings and Brampton got slapped with some pretty heavy penalties, including a check from behind and head contact, as the teams were battling now for every inch of ice.
Time was running down with the scoreboard staying stubbornly in place. In the final minute of play, Brampton mounted a last desperate attack to end Mazzocato’s shutout bid. The Kings lost a player to the box and, at the same time, the Bombers pulled their goalie for an extra-attacker, turning it into a six-on-four.
However, the open net only allowed Sugar Kings’ Matt MacKay (Tyler McBay) a shorty in the final 17 seconds of the match, which ended 5-0.
It was a combination of strong offense and an immovable defence that gave the Kings their win, with every player contributing to the effort. The team outshot their opponents more than double with 36 versus the Bombers’ 17. Elmira was 2-7 with the man advantage, while the Bombers were 0-7.
“Jeremey Goodwin had a three-point night. Skinner had two-points. But on a whole, as the series went on everybody who played in the series ended up with at least a point. Our depth is something of a strength for us, and we’re happy to see everybody contributing,” said Brown.
Mazzocato credits his shutout to his teammates for keeping the puck away from the net.
“I think we played very well. We kind of dominated the offensive zone, we gave up very little defensively,” said Mazzocato.
With the first round of the playoffs over, the games are only going to get tougher from here on out. Moving onto the second round are the top four teams of the regular season: Listowel, Stratford, Elmira and Waterloo.
All the teams swept their respective series except for Waterloo, which played Kitchener to a narrow 4-3 record in the best-of-seven contest. The first-place Listowel team will be taking on Waterloo in the second round, while the second-place Stratford Warriors are set to play Elmira.
It’ll be a challenging round, but Mazzocato is feeling good about the team’s chances. It’s his second year with the Kings, and he’s looking to defend their status as Sutherland Cup champions.
“You got to go into the game the same as every other game: just be ready. If we can stick to the way we’re playing now I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to do well,” said Mazzocato.
The Sugar Kings will be heading to Stratford tomorrow (Friday) to take on the Warriors for their first match. They’ll be back in Elmira Sunday for their second game, followed by a Monday game in Stratford and a fourth back at home on Wednesday. Game time in Elmira is 7 p.m., but 7:30 p.m. in Stratford.