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Kings post another split weekend

It was six of one, half a dozen of another as the Elmira Sugar Kings split last weekend’s games. After giving up six goals November 12 in a 6-3 loss in Stratford, the team scored six in blanking Cambridge back on home ice Sunday.

Things started well for the Kings last Friday in Stratford, where they were first on the board courtesy of Adam Grein’s seventh goal of the season midway through the opening period. Assists went to Nathaniel Mott and Luke Eurig.

The lead was short-lived, however, as the Warriors replied less than a minute later. It was 1-1 heading into the intermission.

In the second, it was the Warriors that got things rolling, making it 2-1 at 4:09. Just 11 seconds later, the score was knotted up again when Elmira’s Daniel Fraleigh responded, assisted by Isaac Westlake and Mott.

Stratford buried two more before the frame ended, making it 4-2. That marked the end of the night for Elmira netminder Dan Botelho, who gave up four goals on 15 shots.

Things didn’t get any easier for his replacement, Matthew Lunghi, who gave up a goal at 4:32 of the final stanza and another at 12:52, broken up by Brody Leblanc’s 12th of the year, assisted by Luke Eurig and Brayden Hislop. Lunghi stopped five of the seven shots he faced in wrapping up the 6-3 loss.

The final shot tally was 23-22 in favour of the visitors.

With the win, Stratford (13-3) edged Elmira (13-4) out of first place in the Western Conference standings, where the two teams are tied with the KW Siskins at 26 points.

“I thought Stratford capitalized on their chances when they had them, and I don’t think we were our sharpest selves,” said head coach Rob Collins. “With that being said, I won’t take anything away from them – Stratford is in the position they’re in because they have a quality group of players over there. They got some momentum off the fans at home, and we just couldn’t keep it going – we would get it going phases and just couldn’t keep it going, so we came up a little short Friday.”

Back in Elmira Sunday night, the Kings were clearly eager to shake off the loss, scoring early and often against the Cambridge Redhawks.

Westlake (from Grein and Kurtis Goodwin) made it 1-0 just 45 seconds into the match, which is how things stood until midway through the second when the home team scored three in the span of little more than five minutes.

Aidan Yarde (Leblanc, Jaxson Murray) opened the floodgates, joined by Lucas Carson (Owen Duiker, Westlake) and Leblanc’s shorthanded goal, which got a helper from Lunghi to go along with his shutout.

The Kings took a 4-0 lead into the second intermission, but they weren’t done yet. Eurig made it 5-0 with a power-play marker at 8:55, with assists going to Murray and Leblanc. Just over a minute later, Grein’s unassisted goal capped the 6-0 victory.

Shots were 27-24 in favour of the home side, with the Kings going 1-4 with the man advantage, while Cambridge was 0-6, giving up a shorthanded goal to boot.

It was a good effort from a squad that’s been dealing with injuries and other shortages in its roster, said Collins.

“That was a great response by them, especially on the weekend that we were short so many guys; we only dressed 10 forwards on Sunday,” he said, praising the team’s effort. “They were committed to what we were trying to accomplish, and in a very team-oriented way took care of a quality team in Cambridge quite handily. It was a good response after the after the Friday result.”

The latest hole in the roster involves filling the vacancy left by defenceman Brayden Hislop, who was acquired by the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit on Monday. The St. Clements native was picked by the Owen Sound Attack in the ninth round of 2019 OHL Priority Selection Draft, with the Attack trading him to Saginaw for a ninth round pick in 2022.

The 18-year-old has spent the last two season in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, putting up 1-17-18 totals in 17 games with the Kings this season.

“That’ a credit to how he worked and improved and earned himself an opportunity,” said Collins of Hislop’s departure. “We’re thrilled. We’re happy for him. By the same token, that’s going to create an opportunity for another guy in our team.

“We’ll miss Brayden, but we wish him all the best, that’s for sure.”

The Kings are back in action this weekend, with a chance for payback in Stratford Friday night and then going head-to-head with the Siskins Saturday night at the WMC.

“We’re happy to get another crack at them. They obviously left a sour taste in their mouth, and we’ll see if we can get some redemption,” said Collins of Friday’s visit to Stratford.

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