The Elmira Sugar Kings split a pair of games over the weekend, including dropping a decision to Listowel that saw them lose a little ground to the Midwestern Conference-leading Cyclones.
The Kings (5-2) still have a game in hand over Listowel (6-1-0-1) and two games over second-place Stratford (5-2-1-1).
The weekend started on a high note as the Kings powered their way to a 6-1 victory Saturday night over the Cambridge Redhawks.
The second match of the season against Cambridge saw the Kings come out strong, drawing first blood with the opening period’s only goal. Harrison Toms got the visitors on the board, assisted by Jeremey Goodwin and Hunter Dubecki. The team out shout Cambridge 10-4 and set the tone for the game.
Coach Rob Collins says the team took control early on in the game, which allowed the Kings to capture the momentum for the rest of the night.
“We did a good job of managing the game and came out with a fairly decisive victory,” he said.
Following the intermission, the Kings came at full-force and potted their second goal just 1:43 into the middle frame. Jacob Black potted the marker that made it 2-0, with assistance from Brody Leblanc and Anthony Azzano. Brody Waters (Black, Leblanc) made it 3-0 before the end of the period.
The Redhawks looked to make a game of it in the third, making it 3-1 less than four minutes into the final period, but it was too little, too late. Elmira would reply three times in the final five minutes to round out the victory. Black, from Carter Lennon and Niki Molson, made it 4-1 at 15:37. Just 20 seconds later, Toms (Azzano, Tyson Hillier) added to the lead. The period’s scoring was capped by Waters’ power play goal at 18:36, with Black and Lennon drawing assists.
Going 2-9 on the power play, and burying six of their 25 shots, the Kings emerged with a 6-1 victory. Elmira netminder Greg Brassard turned aside all but one of the 21 shots he faced to post the win.
The Sugar Kings returned to home ice at the WMC on Sunday to play to face the Listowel Cyclones in a game that would decide who sat atop the standings. Special teams would prove to be a key factor, as five of the six goals scored would come on the power play.
Listowel got on the board first courtesy of the only even-strength goal of the night, but the packed house didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes for the Kings to tie the score at 1-1 on a power play goal by J. Goodwin (Dubecki, Toms) at 8:11.
The visitors rounded out first-period scoring to make it 2-1 as the teams went back to their rooms.
The Kings saw spurts of good play but their focus wasn’t fully there, which made them fall behind in the game, said Collins.
“I thought they were sharper, their intensity was a little higher and they out worked us,” he noted of Listowel’s performance.
The middle stanza saw a lot of aggression and action from both teams, but the Kings fell behind with multiple penalties that gave advantage to the visiting team. The Cyclones used the advantage of a power play to pot another goal at 7:35, followed by capitalizing on another advantageous opportunity to take a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The Kings poured it on in the third, outshooting the Cyclones 15-2 in the period (30-18 overall), but only managed one goal, the period’s only change to the scoreboard a power-play marker at 4:36 by Black, assisted by J. Goodwin and Waters. Even pulling goaltender Dawson Rowe for the last few minutes failed to change anything, resulting in a 4-2 final in favour of the visitors.
The Kings also lost the services of Toms for a couple of games after he was ejected for a check from behind with just 15 seconds remaining on the clock.
“It leaves a massive hole in our line-up, so the guys will have to step up,” said Collins of Toms’ absence.
The next two games see the Kings in Brantford tonight (Thursday) to take on the Bandits (2-5-0-1) before returning home Sunday night to face the Brampton Bombers (4-4-1). The puck drops at the WMC at 7 p.m.