Coming out flying against the Conference’s top team, the Sugar Kings gave the fans plenty to cheer about early and often en route to a 5-3 victory over the Listowel Cyclones Sunday afternoon at the WMC.
The win tightened up the race in the Midwestern Conference, with just two points separating the top four teams. With a record of 18-7-0-3, Elmira and its 39 points trail Listowel at 41 points, Waterloo (40) and Stratford (40) in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League standings.
Elmira started strong in the matinee, scoring four times in the opening frame to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
Jakson Kirk drew first blood at 6:38, with Brock McKenzie and Luke Israel picking up assists. They potted another goal just over 20 seconds later courtesy of Kurtis Goodwin (Harrison Toms, Damian Figueira).
Keeping up the momentum, the Kings go another goal from Kurtis Goodwin, taking advantage of a power play. Jeremey Goodwin and Zack Cameron picked up assists. Tyson Hillier (Cameron, Anthony Azzano) potted one more for good measure, sending the team into the intermission with a solid 4-0 lead. Shots were 12-8 for the home side (29-27 at game’s end).
“We had a great first period,” said head coach Trent Brown. “The goals were very reflective of that. Structurally we were quite sound, even defensively. We gave up eight shots; we had a power-play goal. I thought we played with a lot of speed and that really plays into our game-play.”
The Cyclones weren’t about to go down without a fight, however, making a game of by taking advantage of their chances, including a power play goal at 6:51 that got things rolling. They scored another one just 30 seconds later at 7:21, though there would be no more scoring the period. It was 4-2 after 40 minutes.
“We ran into penalty trouble there,” said Brown of the middle stanza. “Four penalties, four minors in the second period. They have one of the top power plays in the league. Their top guys are top guys for a reason – they make you pay when you make a mistake like that. Give them too many opportunities and they will make it count.
“We allowed them to have a lot of momentum and time and space with the puck, which isn’t the best idea against a team like that.”
The play was a little more even in the third. The Cyclones made it a one-goal game by capitalizing on another power play to score at 12:13.
But the Kings responded, limiting the visitors’ chances and controlling much of the play until Anthony Azzano put the game away with an empty-net goal at 19:11.
“We answered back, and we held court at home,” said Brown. “We got an empty net in just under a minute to seal the deal.”
Despite Sunday’s win and two other victorious games taking on Listowel under their belt, Brown said the Cyclones are a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s always a war,” said Brown. “They’re the top dog in our division and the reigning Sutherland Cup champions. It’s always a red star on the calendar when you’re playing them.”
He also noted the great turnout of the home game, with hundreds of Kings fans showing up to Sunday’s matchup.
“We had a great crowd,” said Brown. “Almost 700 people came out. I know our guys really enjoy playing in front of a home crowd and really feed off of their support. If we could keep supporting the team that would go a long way for our guys, for sure.”
There are no home games in the mix prior to the Christmas break, however. The Kings are on the road in Brampton Friday night, then play in Waterloo in a Sunday matinee (1:30 p.m.). They’re next at home January 6 to face the Brantford 99ers.