The Elmira Sugar Kings skated off the ice Tuesday evening for the final time this season following a four-game sweep by Caledonia in the Sutherland Cup semi-finals.
For some, this would be the final outing of their Junior B careers.
A sense of déjà vu seemed to be falling on the Elmira Sugar Kings up until this point. Last year saw the team lose to the Listowel Cyclones in the Cherrey Cup finals, but their success in the playoffs helped to push them through as the wildcard to the Sutherland Cup finals and their determination drove them to dethrone the reigning champion Caledonia Corvairs in the semi-finals to win the cup against London.
On paper they seemed to be travelling down the same road. Despite a new head coach, a different roster and a rather rocky early regular season, the boys wearing green and gold found themselves playing the Caledonia Corvairs in the Sutherland Cup semi-finals via a wildcard berth following a Cherrey Cup loss to the Listowel Cyclones.
However, that all came to an end Tuesday evening when Caledonia got revenge for last season’s ending.
The series got underway April 11, and while the first couple of games were close, things got worse from there for the Kings.
Heading to Caledonia for their first game, the Kings lost in overtime after some late-game heroics from recent OHL draftee Brody Waters tied things up for visitors.
With Tyler Mazzocato still out of the lineup, backup goalie Rhett Kimmel stepped up, stopping 51 of the 56 shots on net in a tight 5-4 OT loss. Missing Ethan Wiseman, Ryan Takamatsu and Tyler Beauparlant, the Kings were in a tough spot right off the hop – the three had a combined 35 points in the playoffs, accounting for 24 percent of the Kings offence in the postseason. Despite the lineup changes, the team persevered staying competitive throughout all four periods.
Jeff Jordan stepped up and scored the first goal at 9:22 into the first from Zach Cameron.
Caledonia tied it up with just 29 seconds left in the first.
Extending their lead, Caledonia scored two more in the first half of the second. Not to be outdone, Matt MacKay scored shorthanded and unassisted at 11:17. And Ethan Skinner tied it all up with less than three in the second with a man advantage from Jordan and Jeremey Goodwin.
Caledonia was quick to answer, taking back the lead. The goal of the game, however, went to Brody Waters, a callup drafted by the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL draft earlier this week, who scored with just 2:30 left in the third, with an assist from Damian Figueira, to make it 4-4.
After a back-and-forth battle that lasted 17 minutes, Caledonia fired a rocket from the blue line, finding the net and giving the home team the first win of the series.
Already last year’s playbook was altered, as it was the Kings who took the first two games of last year’s series, ultimately winning in six.
With that game over the Kings had a quick turnaround for their first home game last Thursday night.
The team honoured those lost in the fatal junior hockey bus crash last week in Humboldt, Saskatchewan with a moment of silence. The team also donated 50/50 and matched it to the GoFundMe campaign.
Kimmel stole the show once again Thursday night, holding the Kings through a game that went into double overtime. The backup goalie proved he deserved his place in net, and his future with the Kings is promising. Both teams were tired, and it was apparent.
A wild five-goal first period set the stage for what would be a 7-6 Caledonia victory in five frames.
The Corvairs drew first blood halfway through the opening 20 minutes, with Elmira’s Skinner, from Tyler Biles and Spencer Comelli, responding in short order.
Just two minutes later, Cameron (Jordan, Biles) gave Elmira a 2-1 lead, but before the buzzer went Caledonia scored twice, including a power-play marker, to regain the lead at 3-2.
The visitors kept things rolling after the intermission, scoring twice before the middle frame was seven minutes old.
However, the Corvairs got into some penalty trouble, giving both Skinner (J. Goodwin, Jordan) and Biles (Jordan, Cameron) an opportunity to score with the man advantage.
Now in the third, Mason McMahon needed just 24 seconds to score, from Comelli and Biles, making it 5-5.
From there, Cameron took a pass from Biles out front on the power play at 13:21 and sent it top shelf, to put the home side up 6-5.
However, the excitement was short-lived, as Caledonia tied it up with only two minutes left.
It was off to overtime for the second night in a row.
After no scoring for either side through the first OT, Caledonia needed just seven minutes to score a textbook goal in double overtime, taking the win.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Kings got an unscheduled interlude when both weekend games were postponed due to the poor weather, Friday’s game pushed back to Monday and Sunday’s game four played Tuesday.
The extra time gave Mazzocato a chance to come back into the net to finish off the series.
Monday night in Caledonia, the home team didn’t need overtime to post a 4-1 win, extending their lead 3-0 in the series.
Caledonia’s Jesse Barwell scored just five minutes into the first and again with a man advantage over the Kings at 10:45.
In the second, Caledonia added another one to the board. However, Biles defeated any hope of a shutout, scoring on the power play from Jordan and Cameron with five minutes left in the second.
That would be their only goal of the game, however, with Caledonia adding one more with a man advantage for good measure.
Playing the fourth game in less than week, the Kings came unravelled at home Tuesday night on route to an 8-1 loss. Biles (Skinner, Jordan) picked up Elmira’s lone goal.
Plagued with injuries, the Kings were never on a good footing in the series.
Biles knows next year shows a lot of promise but for now he has fond memories of the season past.
“It’s been amazing. I made 22 brothers – love ’em all.”
And with the season over, Skinner, Jordan, Takamatsu, Beauparlant, Wiseman, Comelli and Braydon Munn have retired as Kings.
Jordan, who served as captain for two of his three years as a King, had some final words following his last junior game.
“I’ve been really honored to be able to play my whole junior career for one organization and such a great one. I just don’t know the words to describe what it’s meant to me. Thanks for the continued support over the three years that I’ve been here. Winning a Sutherland Cup was really special, and to be able to bring it back to Elmira and just to hear the Snyder going every night … like at the end of tonight, the fans stayed and gave us a round of applause. I can’t thank them enough for that,” he said.
“It has been a huge honour to represent such a good organization on and off the ice, really can’t put into words what they have done for me over the three years.”