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Kings win another pair, solidify hold on first place

Elmira’s Keaton McLaughlin made his way down the ice to pot his first goal of his junior B career during the game against the Kitchener Dutchmen on Dec. 1 at the WMC, a 7-5 victory. [Aneta Rebiszewski / The Observer]

Seven is considered a lucky number. The Sugar Kings likely agree after putting up seven goals twice on route to a pair of wins over the weekend. The effort saw Elmira gain a four-point cushion atop the Midwestern Conference standings, a now-familiar position.

The Kings romped over the Bandits in Brantford Saturday by a score of 7-0, then followed up with a 7-5 win over the Kitchener Dutchmen the following night.

To kick off the weekend the team travelled to Brantford, where they found success not only in beating the opposing team but in reaching some personal goals as well, says coach Rob Collins.

“Brantford came out hard, to give them credit, and our guys answered the challenge – they earned their victory,” he said of the team’s effort.

Goaltender Dawson Rowe earned his second shutout of the season by turning aside all 22 shots that he faced.

“There was real solid defensive effort in front of Dawson Rowe, that was great to see,” Collins added.

Jacob Black got things rolling in the opening period by getting a goal at 4:57 with assists from Carter Lennon and Harrison Toms. The Kings’ domination of the period – shots were 14-8 – resulted in a second goal at 17:43 from Cooper Way (Brett Allen, Matthew Tolton) to make it 2-0 after one.

Things were looking good for the Sugar Kings when they opened up the second period with a goal just one minute into play from Mason McMahon (Jeremey Goodwin, Anthony Azzano). The Bandits made a push, but to no avail, with a goal from Elmira’s Brody Leblanc making it 4-0 at 5:50, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

The Kings stepped it up in the third, ensuring there’d not be even the thought of a comeback. They made it 5-0 at 3:15 of the final frame when Brody Waters scored on a power play, assisted by Hunter Dubecki and Toms. Elmira controlled the pace for much of the period. At 12:19, Luke Eurig got on the scorecard with help from Allen and Tolton. Four minutes later, Waters’ second goal of the game, assisted by Toms and Dubecki, made it 7-0 for the Sugar Kings.

Final shots were 39-22 for the Kings, including a 13-2 split in the third.

Back on home ice on Sunday, the Kings welcomed the second-place Dutchmen in what turned out to be a much more exciting game.

Elmira dominated early on, scoring the only two goals of the opening frame. The first was a power-play effort from Kurtis Goodwin (Black, Niki Molson) at 9:11. The second came just over four minutes later courtesy of Keaton McLaughlin (Dubecki, Liam Burke), the first of his junior B career. McLaughlin would go on to add two more.

“He was able to experience his first hat trick as well, so I can only imagine how he was feeling. I just hope he understood what his teammates were feeling on the bench at the same time,” Collins said of McLaughlin’s outstanding performance. “That was the loudest roar I heard on the bench from someone scoring a goal this year for us.”

With the energy high, McLaughlin skated to pot his second goal at 3:10 of the middle stanza with assists from Lennon and Way, giving the team a 3-0 lead. Kitchener was quick to retaliate with two goals of their own in less than a minute to make it a one-goal game.

The Kitchener goals were the result of subtle mistakes, said Collions, noting such moments can be learning experiences.

Elmira made it a two-goal game a couple of minutes later when McLaughlin completed his hat trick, assisted by Way and Tolton, to make it 4-2.

The two sides would exchange goals before the end of the period, the Dutchmen making it 4-3 at 10:46 and then Waters (Dubecki, Lennon) getting that back at 15:37 to end the period at 5-3.

The seesaw action continued after the second intermission, with the Dutchmen not prepared to give up. They made it a one-goal game again just 11 seconds into the frame. But captain McMahon got that back with a solo effort that resulted in a goal at 7:40. Kitchener replied six minutes later to make things close again, with McMahon clinching the game with an empty-net goal at 19:07, assisted by Molson and K. Goodwin, to seal the 7-5 victory.

It was a big one, helping to put some space between the Kings and the Dutchmen.

“We were able to come up with two more points against the team right against our heels in the standings, so it was a good weekend,” said Collins.

The team will need some more good energy heading into a weekend that sees them play three games in as many nights. The Kings (20-4-0-4) head to Listowel Friday night to face the Cyclones (15-7-1-3) before returning home to host the Waterloo Siskins (7-15-1-1) Saturday and the Brantford Bandits (5-19-0-3) on Sunday night.

The Saturday game, which gets underway at 7:30 p.m., includes the annul hat and mitten toss. Game time Sunday is 7 p.m.

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