It was a case of win, lose or draw – or, rather, all three – for the Elmira Sugar Kings last weekend.
It started off last Friday with a tie versus the Brampton Bombers, followed by a win over the Kitchener Dutchmen and a loss to the Cambridge Redhawks on Monday.
The split gave the Kings (26-14-2-3) three of the six points available and left them tied with Kitchener (26-15-1-4) at 57 points. The two teams are battling it out for fourth and fifth in the Midwestern Conference, essentially jockeying for home ice in the playoffs as the season winds down. Neither can reach the top three teams – Stratford (68 points), Waterloo (67) and Listowel (66) – who are locked in their own battle for seeding position.
The Kings missed out on a point in what has typically been a sure pair when facing Brampton. In the case of the game February 15, the Bombers actually drew first blood on home ice, adding a second late in the first to take a lead into intermission.
Down 2-0, Elmira managed to step up their game in the second stanza. Ty Biles finally put the Kings on the board at 5:02, with Isaac Taylor and Carson Gabauer picking up assists. The next goal that managed to tie things up came off the stick of Liam Burke (Hunter Dubecki, Ivan Brewer). Brampton wasn’t going down without a fight, however, retaliating at 16:29 and regaining the advantage before heading into the last frame.
It was Jeremey Goodwin (Kuris Goodwin, Mason McMahon) who saved the Kings from a loss, taking advantage of a power play at 9:09. There was no more scoring for the remainder of the period, leading the match into an overtime showdown.
While there was a bit of roughhousing, neither team managed to score in the extra time allotted. That led to a second overtime, which yielded similar results. The game finished up at a 3-3 tie, though Elmira significantly outshot Brampton 49-18.
They had better luck in the next game, Sunday’s matchup against Kitchener at the WMC. Dubecki got the Kings on the board on a power play at 7:19, with Jeremey Goodwin and Jacob Black picking up assists. Kitchener responded, also on a power play, at 14:18, leading to a close match going into second. The rivalry also saw tempers flare, with both teams racking up nine penalties in the first period alone.
It would be Elmira who dominated the second frame, with Zack Cameron (Black, Jonah Burley) potting one at 15:57. Kitchener did not have a chance to respond until the third period.
Jeremey Goodwin (Dubecki) took advantage of an early power play, scoring at 4:02. Kitchener was determined to hang on however, retaliating quickly at 7:43. With moments left to try to take back the game, an Elmira delay-of-game penalty opened the door for a Kitchener penalty shot, which could have allowed the Dutchmen the overtime they needed. They did not manage to capitalize however, giving the Kings a narrow 3-2 win.
Given that the teams are likely to face each other in the first round, the game had something of a playoff feel to it.
Elmira was unable to keep that momentum going the next day at the WMC, however, and ended up on the losing end of a 5-1 outcome against Cambridge.
The Redhawks were quick to get on the board, taking advantage of a power play at 5:02 in the first frame. Elmira only got the chance to respond in the second stanza, with Tyson Hillier (Taylor, Karson Massey) potting the lone Elmira goal of the match.
Cambridge responded with a power play goal at 10:30, giving the visitors a lead they would never relinquish. The puck managed to find its way to the back of the Kings net again at 12:44, followed by one more shorthanded at 14:45, giving the Redhawks a significant 4-1 advantage heading into the third.
There was no comeback to be had, however, with Cambridge scoring the final goal of the match quickly just 52 seconds in. The score was still 5-1 when the final buzzer went, the shots on goal much closer than the score, at 30-26.
This weekend, a busy one, marks the end to the Kings’ regular season. On the road Friday night in Listowel and Saturday in Cambridge, they’ll wrap things up on home ice Saturday night against the conference-leading Stratford Warriors Sunday night. Game time is 7 p.m.