Locked in a seesaw battle in the opening round of the GOJHL playoffs, the Elmira Sugar Kings found themselves on the brink of elimination going into game six on home ice Wednesday night, with results unavailable prior to press time.
Coming off a stellar game one on February 26, the Kings and Kitchener Dutchmen traded blows all week in the first round of the playoffs. Elmira was looking for a bounce-back game that would take the series to the limit, with game seven coming Saturday.
The start of the series was much more hopeful, with the Kings picking up a 5-2 win in Kitchener in game one of the best-of-seven series. However, by the second meeting of the series, the Kings were faltering.
Hosting the Dutchmen for game two in Elmira on February 27, the Kings suffered a 3-0 shutout in their own barn. Game 3 saw the series resume on Saturday in Kitchener, where the Kings again clinched a sizable 7-4 win on the road. Back in Elmira Sunday for game 4, the Kings couldn’t work the home ice advantage, ceding a 2-1 loss to the visitors.
Finally, game 5 on Tuesday this week saw the Kings fall to Kitchener 3-2, putting the Kitchener team just one win shy of clinching the round.
After their early success in game one on the road, the Kings second matchup in Elmira proved to be a dismal affair, with the home team suffering a 3-0 shutout on home ice. Kitchener potted one goal a frame this match, with the first coming less than a minute out from the drop. Kitchener’s Tyler Harrison found his mark at 0:54 making it 1-0 early in the night.
The early goal was all the Dutchmen needed to put this game away. A second point followed in the second frame on a power play marker from Sean Kawalec to make it 2-0.
Down 2-0 well into the final stanza, the Kings pulled their net-minder in the final minutes of the game for the extra attacker, ultimately giving the Dutchmen a wide-open net to make it 3-0 with less than 30 seconds to go.
The loss put the teams at an even 1-1 as they headed into game 3 on Saturday. Once again playing at the Kinsmen arena in Kitchener, the Kings picked up another massive win (7-4) over their hosts.
The first goal came off a Kitchener stick 6:31 in on a power play, but the Sugar Kings’ Jakson Kirk (Jacob Black, Karson Massey) quickly knotted the two teams at the eight minute mark.
Tied 1-1 heading into the second, the Kings put up the next four points on the board. Hunter Dubecki (Kurtis Goodwin, Harrison Toms) started the scoring blitz at 1:15 on a power play. Isaac Taylor (Zack Cameron, Damian Figueira) made it 3-1 at 2:37, while Dubecki (Toms, Jeremey Goodwin) returned for yet another power play at 7:30. A final power play marker 50 seconds later from Ivan Brewer (Jonah Burley, Anthony Azzano) made it 5-1 with still more than half the game to go.
At this point, the Dutchmen rallied, potting the next two goals, at 13:47 on a power play and again at 17 minutes to make it 5-3. But just 23 seconds before the buzzer, Figueira (J. Goodwin) slotted in a sixth point to make it 6-3 for the final 20 minutes of play. The final frame would see each team add another point to the total, with Ivan Brewer (Dubecki) potting Elmira’s seventh goal on an empty net.
Winning their second straight game on the road by a landslide, the Kings returned home Sunday for game 4, where they suffered their second straight loss on Elmira ice. Kitchener clinched this game by a narrow 2-1 margin, with the deciding goal coming ten minutes into the final frame on a power play.
There was no scoring to be had in the first, but just 25 seconds into the second the Dutchmen found their mark on a power play. Kirk (J. Goodwin, Cameron) responded at 2:32, knotting the two teams up well into the third, when Dutchmen Kole Scott slotted the game winning goal at 10:30 on a power play.
With both teams standing at two wins and two losses heading into Tuesday’s game five, the Kings saw their fortunes tumble as Kitchener won their first game of the series on home ice.
Elmira claimed the first two goals of this match, going up 2-0 before Kitchener made a comeback. J. Goodwin (Azzano) potted the first goal 6:38 into the first, followed by a Burley (Figueira, Dubecki) 4:20 into the second on a short-handed play.
Up 2-0, the Kings saw their lead begin to slip as the Dutchmen began to even the count. A power play marker at 6:35 in the second made it 2-1, while the scoreboards were knotted at 11 minutes.
The final goal of the evening, and the game deciding shot, followed from Kitchener’s Harrison on a power play three minutes into the final frame. Up 3-2 with 17 more minutes on the clock, the Dutchmen held the lead over Elmira for the remainder of the match, earning Kitchener a crucial third win in the series.
The two teams met for game six last night at the Woolwich arena, where the Kings were now a loss away from elimination. A win at last night’s game, however, will see the Kings and Dutchmen fight it out in a final game seven on Saturday at the Kitchener arena.