Home ice hasn’t been an advantage thus far in the second-round series between the Elmira Sugar Kings and Stratford Warriors. The Kings went up 2-1 on the strength of a pair of wins in Stratford, with the loss coming at the WMC.
The matches between the powerhouse Warriors and the Kings have been exciting affairs, seeing a total of 26 goals scored, 174 penalty minutes served and a total of 167 shots saved in the first three games heading into Wednesday night’s battle in Elmira (results weren’t available at press time).
Kicking off the second round of the GOJHL playoffs on March 16, the Kings stole a big 6-1 win on the road, dominating play at each end of the ice.
Just two minutes in Tyler Beauparlant gave the Kings an early lead from Zack Cameron and Tyler Biles.
That was shortly followed by what would be Stratford’s only goal of the game.
Entering into the second period with the score 1-1, the Kings took the lead for good when Cameron got one of his own from Braydon Munn and Jeff Jordan at 2:15. Using the man advantage, Cameron extended the Kings lead from Jordan and Ryan Takamatsu. Before the period was up, Kurtis Goodwin found the net from Jordan with less than a minute left, extending the lead to 4-1.
Scoring shorthanded from Tyler McBay, Ethan Skinner got his first of the series at 11:28 of the third. To round it all off, Jordan (Damian Figueira, Takamatsu) showed the Kings’ strength on the power play, letting the team leave Stratford with a 6-1 victory.
“Our guys know what it takes to win. We have a lot of older guys and guys that have played a lot of hockey in their time, so they know the importance of every game and every shift,” said head coach Trent Brown. “We have to take the positives out of each game, learn from the negatives, get ready for the next night because as you can tell with the schedule, there is no time to dwell on lows or to celebrate victories until the series is over.”
And with that, the team was back home Sunday night for game two. While the Kings found the net first, it would be Stratford that had the last laugh on route to a 5-3 win.
Losing the little battles throughout the game ultimately cost the Kings the game, despite a late third- period push that had everyone in the arena buzzing.
Ethan Wiseman kicked it off with a goal on the power play, from Munn and Skinner 7:12 into the first.
Stratford got one of their own with a man advantage, tying it up before the second.
The second period easily went to Stratford, who scored with a man advantage and again at 18:44 to extend their lead 3-1 over the Kings before the buzzer.
The Warriors got another quick one at just two minutes into the third.
Skinner got the momentum going for the Kings, taking advantage of a sloppy Warriors’ penalty, from Jeremey Goodwin and Takamatsu, with six minutes left in the game. Munn followed suit with a rocket from the blue line on the power play, from Skinner and J. Goodwin to get the team within one.
The Kings pulled the goalie for a last-minute push, but Stratford’s Kaleb Pearson got an empty netter, sealing the score 5-3 in favour of the visitors.
While it was a devastating loss, the team did win the special teams battle, scoring on 50 per cent of their opportunities and holding Stratford to a pair of goals on eight power plays.
The deciding game thus far, however, came on the road in Stratford. The Warriors, who had a strong regular season run, showed their weak spots at home again. Elmira skated to a 7-4 win in game three.
Jordan needed just two minutes to get his first of the night, unassisted, in the first period. He followed that up with another one, this time from Wiseman just minutes later. Skinner made it 3-0 for the visitors when the game was just five minutes old, with assists going to Biles and Cameron.
Before the end of the frame, however, Stratford scored two power play goals to cut the Kings’ lead to a single goal. Taking the lead over in the second, the Warriors owned the period that saw the team score twice to take a 4-3 lead into the second intermission.
Having gone scoreless in the middle frame, the Kings took control in the third. Elmira tied it up at 5:42 when Cameron took control of the puck after it bounced off of the defenseman’s skate, pulled it through his legs and beat the goaltender top shelf. Figueira and Jordan picked up assists.
The visitors took the lead for good at 12:24 when Takamatsu got one of his own on the power play on a feed from Marcel Berube and Wiseman. Skinner followed suit, making it 6-4 with help from Takamatsu and Wiseman.
As Elmira had done in the previous game, Stratford pulled their goalie for a late push, only to have any thoughts of a comeback spoiled by Spencer Comelli’s empty-net goal.After the win, the Kings weren’t getting ahead of themselves, content to take things game by game.
“As a team we’re just trying to bring our best effort every night and control what we can control. Obviously it’s a seven-game series so we need to refocus for Wednesday and bring our best for Wednesday night,” said Jordan. “I think we just need to focus on playing our game and we know nothing is going to come easy.”
After Wednesday night’s game, the teams head to Stratford for a Friday night match. If necessary, game six is schedule for Sunday night in Elmira and game seven for Monday (March 26) back in Stratford.