After a Christmas break that went much longer than expected due to the latest pandemic lockdown, the Elmira Sugar Kings returned to action over the weekend. Any rust was short-lived, as the team followed a 4-2 win over Cambridge Saturday with 4-3 decision in Waterloo the following day.
The team now sits in second place in the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference with a record of 22-7, the 44 points one back of the Siskins (21-5-3) and one ahead of the Stratford Warriors (21-8-0-1).
“I would say there’s definitely still some rust to shake off, which is expected and fair, but we got two results that we’re looking for against two good teams. We’re definitely happy with the outputs of the weekend,” said head coach Rob Collins.
“It looks like all the guys took care of themselves and kept themselves in better shape than a pear,” he added with a laugh. “It was definitely encouraging to see that so they’re excited to be back.”
The layoff may have been a factor to the relatively slow start to the game February 5 in Cambridge. It wasn’t until fewer than two minutes remained in the opening period that anyone scored despite two power plays for the Kings and one for the Redhawks. Elmira’s Jack Tos potted one at 18:13, assisted by Luke Eurig and Jaxson Murray.
The combination struck again at 5:24 of the second period to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. That wouldn’t stand in a much more rambunctious frame, however, as the Redhawks struck twice, including a power-play goal, in an eight-minute stretch before Eurig scored an unassisted goal to restore Elmira’s lead.
Despite taking four penalties in the final stanza, the Kings were able to keep Cambridge at bay, with Elmira’s Adam Grein putting one into an empty net with one second left on the clock to seal the 4-2 victory.
The home side outshot the visitors 34-31. Netminder Matt Lunghi stopped 32 to post the win. The Kings were 0-6 with the man-advantage, while Cambridge went 1-7.
It was a good start for new forward Jack Tos, who scored twice in his first game with the Kings after being acquired from the Mississauga Chargers of the OJHL, where he put up 6-10-16 totals in 28 games.
“I was really, really pleased for him. He was able to score our first two goals on the weekend in Cambridge, so for him to get that monkey, so to speak, off his back and not worry about getting this first one with the new team was really encouraging,” said Collins.
Elmira’s special teams had a better time of it Sunday in Waterloo, with two power-play goals contributing to a 3-0 lead through much of the opening period.
Murray scored at 5:06, assisted by Nathaniel Mott and Eurig, then netted another a minute later on the power play, assisted by Mott and Brody Leblanc.
It was 3-0 at 15:46 when Owen O’Donnell converted on the power play, assisted by Grein and Liam Eveleigh.
The Siskins got on the board three minutes later, sending the teams into the first intermission with visitors up 3-1.
Murray (Eurig, Eveleigh) completed his hat trick at 6:41 of the second, the only scoring play of the period.
Two late goals in the third saw the Siskins making a comeback, but it was 4-3 Elmira when the final buzzer sounded.
Shots were 28-25 in favour of the Kings, with Daniel Botelho stopping 22 on route to the win.
The weekend showed plenty of upside, said Collins, noting the team will have to be better focused on the remainder of the season, which will be extended to make up for the games postponed in January.
“Our effort was terrific, and I liked that. The execution became more efficient over the course of the weekend, so you could see the rust being shaken off. We had a four-point weekend, but where I see the rust still there is on the focus throughout the whole time – we allowed ourselves to get a little loose at times.”
The Kings return to action Friday night in Caledon. They’ll be in Waterloo again Sunday for a matinee rematch with the Siskins.