It’s 2-0 for 2020 as the new year gets rolling for the Elmira Sugar Kings.
Back from a two-week Christmas break, the Kings posted victories over Stratford and Brantford in weekend play. In Stratford January 3, the team skated to a 4-0 win, returning home Sunday afternoon to hand the visiting Bandits an 8-2 loss.
Elmira now has a five-point lead atop the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference with a record of 27-6-0-4 for 58 points. Kitchener remains in second with a record of 24-7-2-3, holding a game in hand.
There was no rust on the Kings January 3 in Stratford despite the holiday downtime. A pair of power-play goals in the first period were more than enough to get them going, and sufficient to subdue the Warriors.
Mason McMahon got the visitors on the board at 12:39 as the Kings enjoyed a man advantage, with Brody Waters and Jeremey Goodwin drawing assists. Less than a minute later McMahon repeated his performance, this time helped by Harrison Toms and Hunter Dubecki, to give Elmira a 2-0 lead.
McMahon picked up his third point of the night on the Kings’ third goal, an assist on Kurtis Goodwin’s shorthanded marker at 9:44 of the second period. The visitors made it 4-0 with less than two minutes to go in the middle frame, as J. Goodwin found the back of the net, assisted by Waters and Jakson Kirk.
There was no scoring in the third, but the play was decidedly rougher, with 17 of the game’s 30 offenses called. The Warriors were obviously unable to capitalize on Elmira’s penalty trouble, going 0-9 on the power play for the night, while the Kings were 2-5.
“Special teams were big for us,” said head coach Rob Collins. “It was a good team effort.
“Their focus level was really, really good on Friday night.”
Elmira netminder Greg Brassard earned the shutout, stopping all 29 shots he faced. The Kings put 43 shots on the Stratford goal en route to their 4-0 win.
Back at the Woolwich Memorial Centre Sunday afternoon, the Kings came out flying against the Brantford Bandits, who are mired in the conference basement with a record of 5-26-0-5. But despite outshooting the visitors 15-3 in the opening frame, the Kings had just a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission courtesy of a goal from Anthony Azzano (Toms, J. Goodwin) scored at 18:51.
Elmira made it 2-0 less than six minutes after play resumed when Dubecki scored, assisted by K. Goodwin and Niki Molson. Brantford replied on the power play at 12:39 to make it a 2-1 game until Dubecki (McMahon, Waters) got his second of the day while the Kings were up a man.
It was 3-1 after 40 minutes. The floodgates opened up in the third, however.
“We were in control the whole game, but we came out in the third and really put it away,” said Collins.
Just 32 seconds in, McMahon scored, assisted by Dubecki and K. Goodwin. A minute later, it was Waters, from J. Goodwin and Molson, making it 5-1.
At 5:41, Kirk scored again for the home team, assisted by J. Goodwin and netminder Brassard. At 6:52 it was 7-1 thanks to a goal from Owen O’Donnell, assisted by Carter Lennon. And before the halfway point of the period, Keaton McLaughlin (Jacob Black, Brett Allen) made it 8-1 with a power-play goal.
The Bandits got another with three minutes to go, but that barely registered as the Kings skated to an easy 8-2 victory. Final shots were 39-15 in favour of Elmira.
Collins noted there was no playing down to the competition. Though they could have been frustrated in the first period, the players stuck to their game plan, watching it pay off when the buzzer went.
“You never know what you’re going to get in a game like that,” he said of taking on Brantford. “But the focus was there, the work level.”
The Sugar Kings head to Brampton Friday night to take on the Bombers (8-25-2-1), then return to the WMC Sunday for a 2 p.m. matinee match against the Stratford Warriors (18-14-1-2).