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Kings win on the road, drop a pair at home

Elmira’s Brody Leblanc looks to hold his ground in front of the net during Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Cambridge Redhawks at the WMC. [Aneta Rebiszewski]

Facing three teams below them in the standings, the Elmira Sugar Kings came away with just one win last weekend.

A road game Friday night against the weakest of the three, the Brampton Bombers, netted the Kings a win, but home ice was no advantage as the team dropped a 6-5 OT decision to the Waterloo Siskins on Saturday before losing outright Sunday to the Cambridge Redhawks by a score of 3-2.

When the dust settled, the Kings found themselves in third place in the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference standings, looking up at  Listowel and first-place Kitchener.

The weekend got off on the right foot as the Sugar Kings travelled to the Brampton Arena on Friday night to play against the Bombers, who have yet to post a win against Elmira.

Matthew Tolton drew first blood in the opening stanza at 8:29 during a power play, with assists from Brody Waters and Niki Molson, putting the visitors up 1-0. While there was no more scoring in the first 20 minutes, the Kings kept pressing their case, outshooting Brampton 16-8.

The momentum carried on to the middle frame, with the Kings scoring again on the power play at 2:48 courtesy of Mason McMahon (Hunter Dubecki, Harrison Toms). Ten minutes later, another man-advantage saw the visitors make it 3-0 when Toms potted one of his own, assisted by Jacob Black.

It was a special-teams sweep less than two minutes later when Brampton finally got on the board thanks to a power play. The period would end with Elmira up 3-1. That’s in fact where the scoreboard would remain through the final buzzer, as the two sides exchanged eight shots apiece in the final frame, but couldn’t bury any of their chances.

Shots were 31-28 for Elmira, which capitalized on three of their seven power plays, while Brampton was 1-7.

Back home Saturday to face the Siskins, another team they’d been on top of this season, the Kings may not have been braced for the action that followed. Despite outshooting Waterloo by a wide margin, 46-19, and forcing double overtime, Elmira would never lead and eventually have to settle for a single point.

The Kings set the pace in the opening frame, putting up 12 shots to Waterloo’s six, but the visitors would score twice late in the frame, including a power-play marker, to indicate what kind of night it would be.

Not ready to back down, the Sugar Kings made it a one-goal game with their first of the night at 11:43 by McMahon (Black, Dubecki) during a power play. But the Siskins scored late in the frame, burying one of just five shots, to make it 3-1 after 40 minutes.

The visitors’ lead would expand to 4-1 in the third period before Elmira seemed to find an extra gear where scoring was concerned. At 5:48, Tolton potted a goal and then at 7:22 Brody Leblanc (Brett Allen, Keaton McLaughlin) also got one, making the score 4-3. The Kings made a real game of it when Dubecki (Tolton, Azzano) gave the team its fourth goal of the night. The tie was short-lived, however, as just 30 second later, the Siskins restored their lead.

With netminder Dawson Rowe on the bench for an extra attacker, Dubecki got another equalizer to force the game into overtime with the two teams knotted up at 5-5.

The first overtime settled nothing, the Kings outshooting Waterloo 5-3 but neither team scoring. The Kings put up four more shots in the second OT before the Siskins got one away, but it found the back of the net, ending the match at 3:27 with a score of 6-5 for the visitors.

“I was really happy with the effort but it was one of those one-off games where everything they tried to shoot found its way in the net. Just one of those games – that’s hockey,” said head coach Rob Collins after Satuday’s match.

Sunday night, the Sugar Kings welcomed back the Cambridge Redhawks to the WMC.

Leblanc drew first blood in the first frame at 2:55, with assists from Tolton and Cooper Way. The momentum was with the Kings, who outshot the visitors 13-2.

The middle stanza was closer – shots were 8-7 for Elmira, though it was the Redhawks who scored the lone goal. The teams locked at 1-1, the third period would prove to be decisive.

“We had control of the game in the first period, second period we took our foot off the gas pedal and let them back in again,” said Collins.

Not backing down from a fight, the Redhawks got two goals before the third period was eight minutes old. Down 3-1, the Kings mounted an attack, but it proved fruitless until the Collins pulled netminder Greg Brassard in favour of an extra skater. At 16:32, McMahon (Dubecki, Kurtis Goodwin) made it 3-2, but that’s where things would stand at the buzzer.

“Two good games that we can learn from,” said Collins of the losses on home ice.

With a record of 11-3-0-2, the Kings sit in third place in the conference, trailing Kitchener (12-3-1-1) and Listowel (12-4-0-1). The team has a chance to regain the top spot this weekend, however, as they play a home-and-home  series against the Dutchmen. The teams are in Kitchener late Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m.) before returning to Elmira Sunday for a rematch at the WMC. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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