Picking up just half of the six points available may not have been how the Elmira Sugar Kings envisioned their weekend, but the team was still holding on to the Midwestern Conference lead when the dust settled.
The weekend got off to a promising as the Kings faced the Listowel Cyclones, emerging with a 3-2 overtime win last Friday. But the tables were turned the following afternoon in Waterloo, as it was the Siskins who potted the OT winner in a 3-2 decision. Things weren’t close at all Sunday when the Cambridge Redhawks came to Elmira and left with a 6-3 victory.
The Kings may sit atop the standings, but they’ve got a fair amount of work to do if they want to stay there, suggests head coach Rob Collins.
“We realize when you’re a first-place team that comes with added things such as now you’re the horse that everyone wants to pick off. You’re going to get every team that you play against ready to compete against the best team so you’re going to get their best game more often than not,” he said.
Starting off a three-game weekend, the Sugar Kings travelled to Listowel to take on the Cyclones. Right off the bat the home team set the tone with the opening goal less than two minutes in. The Kings eventually responded when Jeremey Goodwin (Hunter Dubecki, Jacob Black) got one on the power play at 16:14. The period ended with the teams deadlocked at 1-1.
Things slowed down in the middle frame, where the Kings again had more chances, but the home team scored the lone goal. It was 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Newcomer Tyler Dam – acquired in a trade with Waterloo for Tyson Hillier – scored the equalizer less than two minutes after play resumed, with assists going to Brody Leblanc and, Owen O’Donnell. Despite a push that would see the visitors again outshoot the Cyclones 13-5 (42-15 overall), the Kings couldn’t get the go-ahead goal. So it was off to OT. Then the second overtime, which lasted just over two minutes before Jakson Kirk (Waters, Harrison Toms) settled matters in a 3-2 win.
Back on the ice the following afternoon, the Kings were in Waterloo to take on the Siskins. Neither team mustered any scoring in the first period, and the same was true for the second, though Elmira out-chanced the home team, which may have contributed to the frustration level.
“The guys were probably a little low on energy, a little low on sleep but that was no excuse, we knew that was the challenge so we tried to prepare accordingly and came a little flat,” said Collins of the Waterloo game.
The pace picked up in the third, with the Siskins breaking the ice at 1:43. Elmira’s J. Goodwin (Mason McMahon, Dubecki) capitalized on a power play at 9:04 to make it 1-1. The Kings then took the lead courtesy of a goal from Luke Eurig (Cooper Way) at 14:54. But with a minute and a half left to play, the Siskins knotted up the score at 2-2, so it was back to OT. This time, things were settled in less than two minutes, with a perhaps-tired Elmira squad falling 3-2.
The Kings would suffer a worse fate on Sunday, losing despite scoring early and outshooting the visiting Cambridge Redhawks all night.
Kurtis Goodwin drew first blood in the opening stanza at 2:27 with assists from McMahon and Dam. Things quickly turned around as the Redhawks gained controlled and potted three goals in a four-minute span to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
Despite being outshoot 14-7 in the opening period, the visitors held a 3-1 lead.
The Redhawks had no thoughts of slowing down, however, as they went up 5-1 before the second period was five minutes old, the second goal a shorthanded one.
Elmira got one back when Dubecki (J. Goodwin) scored at 15:06, but the writing on the wall was certainly clear at that point.
The Kings didn’t roll over, scoring another at 11:20 of the third frame – Waters, assisted by J. Goodwin, Dubecki – to pull within two, but five minutes later the Redhawks buried one into the empty net to wrap up the evening. Shots were 34-20 for Elmira in another loss to Cambridge, who’ve been a handful this season.
“We look forward to the challenge of getting them again. You know, you keep losing to someone, it makes you want to play them again so you can prove yourself,” said Collins of the Cambridge game.
This weekend, the Sugar Kings (18-4-0-4) will travel to Brantford Saturday to take on the Bandits (5-17-0-3) before returning home Sunday to face the second-place Kitchener Dutchmen (17-5-2-2). The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the WMC.