Kings take two of three games to remain atop Western Conference standings
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Kings take two of three games to remain atop Western Conference standings

Two outta three ain’t bad. It worked for Meatloaf, and also for the Elmira Sugar Kings over the weekend.

Wins over Cambridge and Stratford bookended a loss to Ayr, with the Kings emerging from the stretch of three games in four nights still atop the standings in the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference with a record of 18-5.

The hockey team was in Cambridge December 2, where Elmira emerged with a 5-3 victory over the Redhawks. Back at home Saturday, the Kings were edged by the Ayr Centennials 4-3, bouncing back Sunday night to post a 4-3 shootout win over the visiting Stratford Warriors.

“Thursday was a good effort. I thought our power play more or less won the game. Getting three on the power play, anytime you do that you’re going to give yourself a chance to win,” said head coach Rob Collins.

“I thought the Ayr game was as expected: they play really, really hard, and they play us really close. It was another one-goal game where they scored late in the game. That might have been one where had our power play got going a little earlier, some of the chances might have changed the momentum,” he said. “Credit there, they played well and probably deserve at least one winner out of all the games against us this year.”

Special teams were the factor last Thursday night in Cambridge, with the Kings going 3-7 with the extra skater, while the host side was 0-3.

The Redhawks (13-10-1) were first on the board, getting the scoring underway with just over three minutes left in the opening period. But the Kings responded with their first of their power-play goals at 19:21, that one off of the stick of Jaxson Murray, assisted by Nathaniel Mott and Kurtis Goodwin.

It was 1-1 after 20 minutes, the Kings having been outshot 20-13.

After the intermission, it was the Kings who came out ready to play. Murray potted his 13th of the year at 2:41, a power-play marker assisted by Mott and Brody Leblanc. Just 33 seconds later, it was 3-1 Elmira thanks to a goal from Lucas Carson (Logan Crans, Chris Black). But the Redhawks weren’t just going to roll over, scoring twice in a two-minute span to tie the game.

Another power play allowed the Kings to go ahead for good, however. Goodwin, from Luke Eurig and Mott, made it 4-3 at 10:09. Murray completed his hat trick before the period was out, with assists going to Eurig and Aidan Yorke.

With neither team scoring in the third, the game ended with Elmira being 5-3 winners despite being outshot 42-29.        

“We’re really starting to like the way our power play’s looking. They’re starting to find a lot of chemistry,” said Collins. They look really dangerous. They look like they’re getting chances to score every power play right now.”

The power play didn’t factor into Saturday night’s game against fifth-place Ayr (9-7-3-4) at the WMC, however, as the Kings went 0-3. The PK was helpful, though, as the Centennials were 0-7.

The game was a back-and-forth contest after a scoreless opening period. Owen O’Donnell got the Kings on the board just 40 seconds into the middle frame, assisted by Leblanc and Jayden Lammel. The Centennials tied it at 1-1, however, with just 41 seconds left.

In the third, Lammel (Murray, Adam Grein) made it 2-1 at 4:07. Ayr tied the game, then took the lead before Leblanc’s 18th of the season made it 3-3 at 14:48. With just 36 seconds left in regulation, however, the Centennials struck again, leading to a 4-3 final in which the visitors outshot the home side 33-30.

Less than 24 hours later, the Kings had another shot at a win, welcoming the third-place Stratford Warriors (16-5-0-1) to the WMC. It would require a shootout, but they deposited two points in the bank.

Sunday’s game saw the Kings fall behind 2-0 less than 10 minutes in. They got one of those back before the period ended, however, when Eurig (Murray, Leblanc) scored on the power play at 13:27.

It was a 2-2 game after 40 minutes, as Elmira’s Owen Duiker (Grein, Black) scored the only goal of the middle stanza. The two teams then exchanged goals in the third – Stratford on the power play followed by the equalizer with less than two minutes to play courtesy of O’Donnell (Liam Eveleigh, Murray) – setting the stage for overtime.

The OT settled nothing, so it was off to a shootout, where it took six rounds for somebody to score. Luckily for the home-team fans, that goal came off of Eveleigh’s stick to give Elmira the 4-3 win.

“I thought for the most part we were really solid, stuck with the game plan right to the end, scored late in regulation to tie it up and managed to get in the shootout – we’ll take the two points,” said Collins of the Stratford game.

“It was nice to see a local kid get the winner –  there was a heck of an ovation from the local side when Liam Eveleigh skated  out to take the penalty shot, so it was really neat to see him score the winner like that.”

The Kings are scheduled to play in Listowel Friday night before returning home to welcome the Redhawks for a rematch Sunday night. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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