Perhaps there was no turkey on the menu for the Sugar Kings, as they weren’t the least bit sleepy skating to a pair of victories over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was the Caledon Bombers that got the bird – twice, in fact, losing 5-2 on October 8 and 6-2 on Sunday afternoon.
Head coach Rob Collins praised his squad’s effort, seeing much to be happy about.
“Another week under our belt of being around each other helps, but I thought the guys’ focus was much more prepared and present for this weekend versus the one previous. I thought our leaders led, and I thought it was a good overall effort for two games.”
In Caledon on Friday night, the Kings jumped to an early lead thanks to a goal from Kurtis Goodwin just 30 seconds after the puck dropped. Assists went to Jaxson Murray and Brody Leblanc.
Elmira went up 2-0 when Murray scored at 9:17, assisted by Aidan Yarde and Liam Eveleigh, but the home team made a game of it by scoring two goals in short order before the end of the period, one on the power play.
The Kings took the lead for good early in the second, however, as Murray scored his second of the night just 27 seconds after play resumed. In that, he was helped by Aidan Milne and Goodwin. It was 4-2 for the visitors before the second period ended when Murray completed the hat trick, this time assisted by Leblanc and Brayden Hislop.
Elmira’s Yarde (Eurig, Jayden Lammel) provided the only scoring of the third period, a power-play marker at 10:57. The Kings were 1-7 with the man advantage, while Caledon went 1-5. The Bombers outshot the visitors in every period, with the final tally 38-23. Netminder Richard Szajek picked up the win.
Those with a hot hand continue to lead the way, Collins noted.
“All the guys off to good starts have great practice habits. That’s a factor in the ability to improve quicker than others, possibly, and have that kind of success early. They all deserve what they’re getting right now,” he said.
On Sunday, it was the Kings’ turn to host Caledon, with the result turning out much the same.
Isaac Westlake got Elmira on the board at the five-minute mark, assisted by Chris Black and Jack O’Donnell. Less than 10 minutes later, the Kings were up 2-0 thanks to Murray (Hislop, Yarde). That’s how things ended after 20 minutes.
Black put the Kings up 3-0 at 2:07 of the middle frame, with assists going to Mason Eurig and Milne. The Bombers got on the board at 8:53, but the home side salted things away when Leblanc, from Murray, scored shorthanded at 13:18 and then again on the power play three minutes later, this time assisted by Owen Duiker and Murray.
Caledon scored their second in the dying seconds of the period, but it was too little, too late at that point.
Elmira rounded out the scoring with the sole marker of the third courtesy of Lammel (Adam Grein, Luke Eurig).
This time, the shot totals reflected the scoring, with Elmira putting 34 on net to Caledon’s 16. The Kings were 1-3 with the man-advantage, while the Bombers were 0-7, giving up a shorthanded goal.
It was goaltender Matthew Lunghi picking up this win this time out.
Despite a pair of solid wins, Collins said the team has much work to do, as it’s still early yet.
“We’ve got a long, long way to go – we are far from content. It’s far too early to get comfortable, that’s for sure,” said the coach, noting practices focus on all facets of the game, with an emphasis on defence.
“We generally work on D-zone every single day: how to get the puck, and how to get out with the puck. So that’ll be a constant all year. You can’t get too good in your D-zone, so just figuring out what your job is, and when this scenario arises, how do we get out of our end as quickly as possible to go play down in the end that everyone wants to be? That always gets lots of focus.”
The Kings are in Ayr tonight (Thursday) to face the Centennials before returning home to welcome the Brantford Bandits Sunday night at 7 p.m.
Elmira will be without defenceman Owen O’Donnell, who’ll miss the game due to the misconduct penalty he drew October 10, but could see the return of defenders Nathanial Mott and Brock Reinhardt, said Collins.
“He’s been long enough after a second vaccination, and will be back in the lineup Thursday, so we’re excited to have him back,” said Collins of Mott, noting Reinhardt is recovering from an injury.
“He’s had a little nagging injury that we’re just over the hump with, and it’s possible he’ll be back in the lineup this weekend, too.”