It was a mixed bag for the Sugar Kings, who won two out of their three games during a busy weekend that saw the team maintain their lead atop the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) Midwestern Conference standings.
The Kings opened the weekend December 6 in Listowel with a 4-3 overtime win before dropping a 3-2 decision to Waterloo the following night. The weekend ended Sunday with a 5-0 blanking of Brantford at the WMC.
“You can’t complain about first place. Our group needs to understand that in being first place, everyone is going to get excited to play you. Everyone’s going to want to knock off the ‘top dogs,’ so the discipline of being focused and prepared of every game … that’s what allows teams to stay at the top. I’m hoping we can do that,” said head coach Rob Collins.
The Sugar Kings (22-5-0-4) are leading the Kitchener Dutchmen (19-6-2-2) by six points, while the Cambridge Redhawks (18-7-1-2) are in third.
“Obviously you want to win every game, but four out of six points … we wanted more, of course we did, but we’re happy with where we sit,” said Collins.
Last Friday’s game in Listowel against the Cyclones started off relatively quiet, with no scoring by either side in the first.
“It was a good competitive game: two teams that had a bit of a history going at each other,” said Collins. “We are able to pull it off in overtime.”
It was the Cyclones who finally broke the deadlock 49 seconds into the second stanza. Listowel followed that up with a shorthanded marker at 4:02 before Elmira finally found their footing. Brody Waters took advantage of a power play at 5:04, with Mason McMahon and Hunter Dubecki picking up the assists to make it 2-1. Play got chippier, but that was it for the scoring in the middle frame.
When play resumed in the third, Jacob Black (Niki Molson, Brody Leblanc) scored at 4:51, capitalizing on another power play. Waters kept up the momentum at 12:34. Assists went to Dubecki and Greg Brassard. With the Sugar Kings now in the lead, Listowel made a last-ditch effort to save the game by pulling their goalie for an extra attacker. This strategy paid off, and the Cyclones scored just four seconds afterwards at 18:39. That brought the game into a nail-biting overtime.
Listowel got hit with a tripping penalty just 47 seconds in, which gave the Sugar Kings an advantage. They did not disappoint, with Jeremey Goodwin (Harrison Toms, Dubecki) scoring the game-winning goal at 1:06.
Elmira took it 4-3, but the Kings were outshot 31-27.
The following day saw a change in fortune, with the Sugar Kings falling narrowly to the Waterloo Siskins on home ice.
“I’m not sure what happened there … whether it was focus-related or if the gas tanks all of a sudden ran empty for us, or whatever it was, but it was kind of a one-off,” said Collins. “It wasn’t our most efficient effort and Waterloo took advantage.”
Things started strong, with Cooper Way (Carter Lennon) drawing first blood at 8:54. There was no more scoring until the second.
Luke Eurig kept up the momentum at 15:07; assists went to Lennon and Way. Waterloo finally got the chance to retaliate, a shorthanded marker at 18:08. They managed to keep up the heat well into the third, taking advantage of a power play at 13:07 and evening up the score in the process.
The final deciding goal came at 15:28, as Waterloo scored on yet another power play. When all the dust had settled, the Siskins won it 3-2, edging the Kings on the shot-counter as well, 19-18.
The Kings were back on track Sunday night, perhaps taking out their frustrations on the Brantford Bandits in a 5-0 win.
“That’s the nice thing about hockey: the next day you have an opportunity to redeem yourself,” said Collins. “The guys took advantage of that and took control of the Brantford game from the start, led by our captain Mason McMahon who was the best player on the ice that night for us.”
It was McMahon (Toms, J. Goodwin) who put the Sugar Kings on the board at 16:14. He kept things going into the second stanza, where he potted another goal at 4:19. Lennon and Dubecki picked up the assists.
“Mason was terrific Sunday; he wasn’t going to allow us to lose. That’s what it kind of looked like from an outsider perspective.”
The second stanza was notable for its roughhousing, with nine penalties assessed between the two teams. Dubecki kept the Kings rolling, scoring while shorthanded at 7:54, with an assist going to Way. Waters (McMahon, Toms) capitalized on a power play at 16:40, making for a comfortable 4-0 lead going into the final frame.
McMahon managed to achieve a hat trick and the final goal at 9:03, with Kurtis Goodwin and Lennon grabbing assists on route to a 5-0 final.
Shots were closer, 31-25 in Elmira’s favour.
This weekend, the Kings are in Listowel Friday night for a rematch, then back at home Sunday afternoon to welcome the Kitchener Dutchmen. The puck drops at 2 p.m.