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Sugar Kings win a pair of games to shore up hold top spot

In what was a chippy affair, the Sugar Kings emerged victorious with a 3-0 win.

The Elmira Sugar Kings picked up a pair of wins over the weekend, solidifying their hold on the top spot in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Midwestern Conference standings. They easily took down the Listowel Cyclones 3-0 on Friday night, then went on to edge out the Kitchener Dutchmen 5-4 in double overtime on Sunday.

With a record of 24-5-0-4, the Kings have a five-point lead on the second-place Dutchmen (21-6-2-3) and nine on the Cambridge Redhawks (20-7-1-2).

Things started slowly  Friday night in Listowel, with no scoring in the first frame and the two teams combining for just 13 shots (8-5 in favour of the Cyclones). It was Elmira that finally broke the deadlock, with Mason McMahon (Anthony Azzano) scoring at 5:10.

The game close, tempers began to rise and the play got rougher. That was particularly evident just before the halfway point when a Listowel slashing call escalated into a fight, that earned Elmira’s Owen O’Donnell and Listowel’s  Rylan Bower each five minutes and a game misconduct.

“[Listowel] had a different strategy than in the past against us, and I think that entailed a little more physical play. I guess maybe that’s why it came off a little more aggressive,” said head coach Rob Collins.

The chippy tone continued on throughout this stanza and the next, which eventually left the Cyclones at a disadvantage. Elmira’s Luke Eurig (Kurtis Goodwin, Jacob Black) capitalized on this opportunity, potting another on a power play at 19:46.

“Our special teams were great. Our penalty kill didn’t get give up anything, and our power plays scored goals,” noted Collins of the evening that saw the Kings go 1-5 and Listowel 0-7 with the advantage. “When you win the special teams battle, and your goalie doesn’t give up any goals, it’s usually a good recipe for a win.”

Azzano scored the sole goal of the final frame, an unassisted marker at 9:56. The play remained rough, with the parade to the penalty box continuing, but the Kings emerged with a 3-0 win when all the numbers were tallied.

The Kings put 29 shots on net, with Elmira goaltender Greg Brassard stopping all 25 pucks thrown at him.

Back at home Sunday to welcome the Dutchmen, the Kings experienced a different kind of game.

Kitchener drew first blood at 11:43, taking advantage of a power play. Cooper Way was quick to retaliate at 16:25, with assists going to Matthew Tolton and Eurig. The Dutchmen regained  their lead before period’s end, however, scoring another on a power play at 18:37.

After the intermission, it was Elmira’s turn to capitalize on a power play, courtesy of a goal from Brody Waters (Jeremey Goodwin, Harrison Toms) at 8:50 to tie things up at 2-2. But Kitchener would take a one-goal lead into intermission yet again, scoring at 15:07.

The visitors’ lead was extended to two at 8:13 of the third. Down 4-2, the Kings didn’t quit, getting one back less than two minutes later when Tolton scored at 9:57, assisted by Eurig and Azzano. Black (Jeremey Goodwin, Waters) drew the two sides even again when he scored at 13:47. Few chances followed, and absolutely no scoring before regulation time ran out, so it was off to overtime.

Nothing was settled in the first OT – shots were only 3-1 for Elmira – but J. Goodwin (Eurig, Carter Lennon) needed just 1:16 of the second extra frame to give the Kings their first lead … and the win.

“It’s always [intense] with Kitchener. They’re in second place right now, so they’re trying to reel us in so to speak. That was a good, hard game that went to double overtime. Jeremey Goodwin made a heck of a play in overtime to get us the extra point,” said Collins.

“We were just shy of 700 people in the stands, which is a great crowd. The fans got all the value for the money they spent coming to the game with a double-overtime win. I think it worked out for everyone.”

Shots were 28-19 in favour of the Kings, who went 1-5 on the power play, while Kitchener was 2-4.

The two teams go at it again this weekend, as the Kings head to Kitchener for a 4:30 p.m. match on Saturday. The following day, the Kings are in Waterloo to take on the Siskins (10-17-1-1) in a 1:30 p.m. matinee.

“Waterloo is a team that’s beat us the last three times we played them actually,” said Collins. “Without looking past Kitchener, we’re certainly looking forward to getting our hands on Waterloo.”

Following that game, the Sugar Kings enjoy a break for the holidays, with no games on tap until January 3 in Stratford. The next home match is January 5 when the Brantford Bandits come to town.

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