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Kings split weekend games, remain in first place atop conference standings

Elmira’s six-game winning streak came to end in Caledon last Friday night, as the Sugar Kings dropped a 4-2 decision to the Bombers. The team promptly started a new streak Sunday with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Cambridge Redhawks.

In Caledon November 5, the Kings twice lost one-goal leads on route to the loss. Elmira was on the board first, with Adam Grein’s unassisted goal the only scoring in the first period. The Bombers tied it up at 1-1 less than five minutes into the second before Luke Eurig, assisted by Grein and Aidan Yarde, regained the lead for Elmira at 10:37.

Before the period ended, however, Caledon made it 2-2. A pair of unanswered goals 16 seconds apart in the third frame paced the Bombers to victory.

Elmira goaltender Matthew Lunghi stopped 31 of the 35 shots he faced. The Kings put up 30 shots. Both teams were 0-3 on the power play.

“It was one of those things where we… maybe did not have the total respect for the opponent that [we] should have,” said head coach Rob Collins of the loss to a team that’s second from the bottom in the Midwestern Conference standings.

“I think there was a little bit of ‘we’re in first place, you’re in second-last – we only need to show up.’ And it cost us the same way it cost us when we played Branford,” he added, referring to a previous loss to the last-place Bandits.

“We were much better on Sunday.”

That was certainly the case when the Cambridge Redhawks visited the Dan Snyder arena.

The Kings opening the scoring midway through the first when Jaxson Murray buried one on the power play, assisted by Brody Leblanc and Brayden Hislop. While Cambridge got that back before the period ended, it was all Kings after the first intermission.

Luke Eurig made it 2-1 at 13:25 of the middle stanza, another power-play goal, with assists again going to Leblanc and Hislop. That’s how things stood after 40 minutes.

In the third, Liam Eveleigh, from Luke Della Croce, made it 3-1 less than three minutes in. Murray’s second of the night, an empty-netter assisted by Eurig, sealed Cambridge’s fate.

Special teams were a big part of Sunday’s game, with the Kings going 2-4 with the man advantage, and the penalty killers shutting down the Redhawks, who were 0-6. Shots were 33-32 in favour of the home side, with netminder Dan Botelho picking up the win.

Collins said he was happy with the bounce-back win, praising his team for getting back on track after losing some focus in Caledon.

“Win or lose, you have an opportunity to learn. Unfortunately, we learned Friday through a loss. The guys showed some maturity in their response Sunday with a big win against Cambridge,” said Collins.

“So I think all we take away from Friday is we burn the game tape and learn that it doesn’t matter who you play, the two points is worth the same amounts for the wins – everyone needs to be taken with the same level of seriousness.”

Just because the Kings are in first place, that doesn’t mean any opponent can be taken lightly, he stressed.

“That’s evident in our case. We have three losses this year, and we’ve lost to the last-place team and the second last-place, so two or three losses against two of the lower teams in the standings.”

The Kings sit atop the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference with a record of 12-3, putting up wins despite a fair bit of roster juggling due to injuries. Call-ups were pressed into service again this weekend due to the losses of Mason Eurig, Owen O’Donnell, Jack O’Donnel, Logan Crans, Adam Grein and Jayden Lammel.

“When you have about five or six regular guys out of your line-up, that leaves a hole. So a lot of credit has to go to the guys that have been called up for every game – we’re calling two or three guys up every single game.  To have the level of team success that we’ve had with the amount of injuries and suspensions and what have you – I know we’re not the only team. I’d be hard pressed to find a team that’s missed the amount man games that we have – so for our guys to maintain that level of success with that hurdle is also a testament to them,” said Collins.

The Kings return to action this weekend, heading to Stratford Friday night to take on the second-place Warriors (11-2). They return home Sunday night for a rematch with Cambridge. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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