A couple of streaks came to an end Sunday as the Elmira Sugar Kings played their lone game of the week: the four wins to start 2020 didn’t reach five, and the team lost for the first time this season to the Stratford Warriors.
The latter was a surprising turn of events for the Kings, who had won the previous five encounters since the season started in September.
“I don’t really have a logical explanation. We were just flat and couldn’t get anything going,” said head coach Rob Collins. “I think it was a combination of our attention to detail being poor and Stratford’s being really, really good. It was kind of a one-off for us this year we haven’t experienced a game like that this year.”
He added that a recent trip the Junior B team took to New York may have thrown the players’ game off.
“We took the guys down to Cornell University to experience a Division 1 hockey game down in the U.S. and see some of their facilities, maybe open their eyes to some opportunities that might arise from hockey,” said Collins. “I don’t know if it was a lapse from that.”
Despite the loss, the Kings (29-7-0-4) remain in first place in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Midwestern Conference. Trailing seven points behind in second place are the Kitchener Dutchmen (25-9-2-3), while third is held by the Cambridge Redhawks (24-11-1-3).
“We’re in first, but still need to get better. If you get complacent that’s when you get caught,” said Collins. “The level of hockey is only going to get better especially in the playoffs … in order to achieve any sort of goal we’ve set for ourselves, we need to improve and we realize that.”
During Sunday’s game, Stratford got on the board first late in the frame at 18:22, giving Elmira no chance to respond before intermission. Things stayed relatively quiet after that, with just a handful of penalties and no scoring whatsoever in the second frame.
The final frame saw the most action; the Warriors scored again at 3:58, which may have seen some tempers flare. Elmira got hit with an infraction shortly afterwards, which put them at a disadvantage. Stratford made sure to capitalize with a power play goal at 13:44 to make it 3-0
With time winding down and looking for an offensive spark, Elmira pulled their goalie, Greg Brassard, for an extra attacker. The move backfired, with the visitors taking advantage of the empty net at 17:59. Elmira returned Brassard to the net, but the damage was done at that point, wrapping up the match as a 4-0 loss for the Sugar Kings.
“We’re not going to get too worked up over it,” said Collins. “Obviously we’re going to use the information we’ve been given through that kind of effort in playing to learn from it. We hope to get better starting [Tuesday’s] practice.”
The Sugar Kings will be hitting the road for their next several games; on Friday, they’re in Listowel to take on the Cyclones at 7:30 p.m., then take on the Siskins in Waterloo on Sunday, a 1:30 p.m. matinee.
“We’ve got two tough games on the road. We’re in Listowel … they’re a very predictable but hardworking team that plays us really, really close,” said Collins. “Then we have Waterloo who we’ve lost three or four in a row to … so we’ve got our hands full.”