Some points come easier than others, as the Kings found out last weekend in picking up two in a 5-0 romp over the Cambridge Redhawks before picking up two more in a back-and-forth 7-5 win over the Listowel Cyclones.
The wins put the fourth-place Kings (14-4-0-3) within two points of the top three teams of the Midwestern Conference – Stratford, Waterloo and Listowel – and a respectable nine points ahead of the fifth-place Kitchener Dutchmen.
On ice Saturday at the Cambridge arena, the Kings dominated right from the get-go, securing a 5-0 shutout against the Redhawks.
“I have to say that was probably the best defensive team performance we’ve had all year,” said head coach Trent Brown.
Isaac Taylor (Ty Biles, Damian Figueira) potted Elmira’s first point just 34 seconds in. That was quickly followed by a power play marker from Harrison Toms (Jeremey Goodwin, Brody Waters), putting the Kings up 2-0 before the first intermission.
The break did little to slow the Kings down as they entered the second, with the Elmira team picking up another two in the next 20 minutes. A quarter of the way through the period, Jakson Kirk (Zack Cameron, Hunter Dubecki) buried the team’s third of the match, while Brody Waters (J. Goodwin, Kurtis Goodwin) capped off the period with a fourth, with just forty seconds left on the clock.
The Kings were up 4-0 by the final stanza, and a shutout was definitely in the cards. K. Goodwin (Biles, Toms) potted the team’s fifth and final goal of the match at 8:35, pouring some salt on the wounds of the embattled home team, though at 27-20 for the visitors, the shots were closer than the scoreboard indicated.
The Redhawks were getting frustrated, and tempers finally boiled over in the final 10 seconds of the match. A skirmish broke out, and when the dust had settled Cambridge bore the brunt of the blame, losing three members to the showers for instigating and inciting, while the Kings lost just one. Of course, the upset did nothing to end Elmira netminder Rhett Kimmel’s second shutout of the season.
“Rhett played very well for us,” said Brown. “But I thought we made life easy for him, as easy as we could – all five guys on the ice working to spots defensively and limiting Cambridge to only one chance per opportunity, and we didn’t really give up too many opportunities. That was great to see guys buying on the defensive side of the puck as well.”
With a 5-0 landslide victory on Saturday, the Kings knew they were not going to have nearly as easy a time the following night.
Welcoming the first-place Listowel Cyclones to the Elmira arena, the Kings had to fight tooth and nail for the 7-5 victory they got. Despite the two-point spread, it was Listowel that spent the most of the evening in the lead, with Elmira only just pulling the game back from the edge of defeat in the final two minutes of play.
“I think that that was a great character win for us. I mean, there’s a few things that we’d like see tightened up systematically and discipline-wise,” said Brown.
The Cyclones picked up the first two points of the match, including a power play marker coming halfway through the first, before the Kings had a chance to respond. Toms (Tyson Hillier) narrowed the gap with four seconds left on the clock, ending the first frame at a 2-1 difference.
Entering the second, Dubecki (Cameron) knotted the teams up 2-2, just two minutes in, but Listowel quickly responded with their second power-play goal of the evening. Listowel was again in the lead, but Elmira was hot on their heels. Dubecki (Mason McMahon, Damian Figueira) tied up the game for a second time with a power-play marker, just five minutes before the frame was out.
The teams were now at a 3-3 standstill as the third frame opened. Listowel pulled into the lead again with another power play, but the Kings responded with two power-play goals of their own, the first coming off the stick of K. Goodwin (J. Goodwin, Dubecki) nine minutes in, and a second from Anthony Azzano (Figueira, Cameron) at 15:31.
The Kings had finally inched ahead of the Cyclones at 5-4 with just under five minutes on the clock.
However, the Cyclones retaliated with a fifth goal at the 17-minute mark, setting the two teams up for a chaotic final three minutes of play to break the tie.
Ultimately, it was Damian Figueira (Isaac Taylor, Liam Burke) who potted the game-winning goal, scoring Elmira’s sixth at 18:37. The Cyclones pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, hoping to force the game into overtime, but the empty net proved easy pickings for J. Goodwin (Toms, Azzano).
Picking up four hard-fought points over the weekend, the Kings will need to pull all the stops as they take on three teams in as many days starting Friday.
On November 30, the Elmira team will be on the road to Stratford to take on the runner-ups of the Midwestern Conference at a 7:30 p.m. meeting. The following night, the Kings face the 99ers in Brantford for a 7 p.m. game. On Sunday, the Kings return home for another 7 p.m. meeting against Kitchener.
Both Stratford and Kitchener will prove to be the biggest obstacles for the Kings this week. Despite besting the first-place Listowel Cyclones at both their previous meetings, the Kings have yet to best the second-place Stratford Warriors or the fifth-place Kitchener Dutchmen.
“We’ve worked hard and developed the penalties to be within striking distance of the top of the conference. Those are two teams we have yet to beat, so we’re taking every measure and practice this week to prepare ourselves,” said Brown.
“You know, we really feed off our home crowd. And the more people that can come out and support us, I know the guys really appreciate that.”