The first two games of the preseason were rocky for the Elmira Sugar Kings, but provided staff a good opportunity to evaluate potential players for the fast-approaching Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) season.
The Sugar Kings fell to the Listowel Cyclones in overtime 5-4 on August 21 to open the exhibition schedule before losing out to the Waterloo Siskins Sunday by a score of 3-1.
Last week’s game took place on home ice at the WMC, with head coach Rob Collins saying that while it was not the ideal result, he was proud of the overall performance, particularly of the younger players.
“Considering the age of the guys we had in our lineup compared to the returning players, and the guys that Listowel has pencilled in for this year to make their roster, … I thought our young kids competed really, really hard, and with a little bit of luck, would have won that game,” said Collins.
It was Listowel who drew first blood at 7:40 of the opening period. The Kings retaliated quickly into the second stanza at 1:37, with Matt Tolten (Cooper Way) scoring the first goal for Elmira.
The streak didn’t stop there; Keaton McLaughlin took advantage of an early power player and potted another at 3:06, with Ethan Broderick and Ryan Elliot picking up the assists. Elmira potted one more for good measure at 5:57, coming off the stick of Cam Daigle (Brett Allen).
Listowel wasn’t about to go down without a fight, however, regaining their footing at 15:27. This brought the Kings into the third period with a 3-2 lead.
The next goal went once again to Tolten at 7:04, with Brody LeBlanc and Mark Mcintosh grabbing the assists. Listowel responded twice, potting one at 9:54 and another at 16:09, and bringing the match into a tense overtime round.
It was the Cyclones who ultimately took the game, with an unassisted goal by Carter Mcilwain at 1:50, making it a 5-4 loss for the Kings.
Next up was a trip Sunday to Waterloo to take on the Siskins.
“The Waterloo game, for whatever reason, I thought our energy level was as low as I’ve seen it since the first day we skated at training camp,” commented Collins. “I was disappointed with the result and the effort but reasonable in understanding what happened. Definitely don’t want to see it happen again.
“We’re realistic in knowing everyone’s not going to give 100 percent all the time … but that’s no excuse for us.”
The Siskins got the drop on the Sugar Kings, potting the first goal at 9:23 in the opening frame. There was little action and no penalties until the second, when Waterloo scored once again at 2:01.
It was almost midway through the final stanza before Elmira finally got a chance to respond; after the team gave up another goal at 6:39, Tyson Hillier potted the first and only tally for the Sugar Kings at 8:56. Brett Allen and Jeremy Goodwin picked up assists, wrapping up the game with as a 3-1 loss for Elmira.
The results to date aren’t ideal, but the team can take some solace in the fact it’s just the preseason, and nothing counts until the first game of the GOJHL season on September 7.
“We didn’t lose any points. We had a good opportunity to evaluate some players we wanted to evaluate,” said Collins.
Having hosted the Kitchener Dutchmen Wednesday night – results weren’t available at press time – the Kings head into a busy stretch to wrap up the preseason. The Siskins are in Elmira tonight (Thursday) at 8 p.m., then the Kings head to Kitchener Friday night.
“It’s not a very big league, there’s not a lot of teams, so you develop rivalries with a lot of them. Kitchener is the team that beat us out in the playoffs last year, so I expect the guys to be hungry,” said Collins, before the match.
The exhibition schedule winds up on Labour Day in Listowel.