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Kings split weekend games, ceding first-place spot to Siskins

With just one more game ahead of Christmas – tonight (Thursday) in Ayr – the Elmira Sugar Kings are looking forward to the break. Some recovery time is just what the doctor ordered.

Playing shorthanded last weekend, the hockey club managed to split a pair of games, following a 3-0 to the K-W Siskins on Saturday with a 2-1 win over the Ayr Centennials on Sunday night at the WMC.

The Kings headed into Saturday night’s tilt tied with the Siskins atop the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference, with the home team emerging victorious. Elmira now sits in second spot with a record of 20-7 for 40 points, three back of KW (20-4-3) and one ahead of third place Stratford (19-7-0-1).

“Waterloo put it on us early in the game on Saturday, and we never really seemed to get our feet under us,” said head coach Rob Collins of the game against the Siskins. “That’s part of the reason why they’re in first place – they did a real good job.

“But considering the roster we were working with – that’s not an excuse – the guys were really competitive. We were short both games and certain guys had to step up in unfamiliar roles. The effort was there.”

The Siskins scored three times before the game was nine minutes old, and that proved enough to seal the win. When the dust settled, Waterloo had outshot the visitors 34-25, with both teams going 0-3 on the power play.

“Waterloo was definitely a better team on Saturday. And then Sunday, I thought the effort was there again, but I thought there was much more focus and attention to detail. And that proved to be the difference in the results we were looking for. It was a really good 2-1 win against Ayr.”

The Kings had plenty of great chances. Capitalizing on two of them proved to be enough Sunday night on home ice.

Mason Eurig opened the scoring at 17:44 of the first, assisted by Jayden Lammel. It was 1-0 after one.

In the second, the lone goal of the period came off the stick of Elmira’s Brody Leblanc, with the 2-0 holding for the next 15-plus minutes leading into the second intermission.

Ayr cut the lead to 2-1 at 5:18 of the third, but that was as close as things got despite outshooting the kings 10-7 in the frame and 28-24 overall.

“Their goaltender played absolutely fantastic. I think he stopped four or five breakaways – that really gave them a chance to be there in the end, which wasn’t surprising to us, as Ayr always plays us really tough,” said Collins. “But our guys really kept their focus well, and it was a well earned 2-1 win.”

The Centennials will be looking for some redemption Thursday night in Ayr as the Kings wrap up 2021. Elmira will have defenceman Brock Reinhardt back in the lineup, a bit of relief for Collins who’s been forced to use forwards to augment his depleted blue-line corps.

“Not only is he welcome because we love Brock, Brock is also welcome because we need the D desperately. We had Adam Grein, Jayden Lammel and Owen Duiker, all forwards playing D last weekend just trying to piece together a lineup that is competitive. So with Brock coming back, that’s certainly going to help us and that added depth on to D is invaluable,” he said.

The Christmas break will provide the injured players time to rest and recover.

“With Christmas coming up and all that, it’s that time of the year – the guys are ready for a break, and they need a break. Well, the Elmira Sugar Kings need a break; we’ve got a lot of injuries that time will help us with, so it comes at a good time for us,” said Collins of the holidays.

The Kings are scheduled to resume play January 2, when they welcome the Listowel Cyclones to the WMC for a 2 p.m. matinee game.

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