Taking two of three in the past week, the Elmira Sugar Kings extended their lead atop the conference standings to six points with a record of 32-9.
Wins over the Listowel Cyclones bookended a loss to the second-place Cambridge Redhawks (28-12-2).
“We were really good Wednesday against Listowel, the 5-0 win. In the Cambridge game, they came out ready to rock and we didn’t match their intensity off the hop – it was over halfway through the game, we were down five. The guys battled back and won the second half of the game for pride, but it was too big of a hole to come back from against that kind of team,” said head coach Rob Collins.
“Then the Sunday night game, the first and third period against Listowel might have been the two best periods we’ve played all year. We had a little bit of a hiccup about halfway through the second period for a stretch of about three and a half minutes – we gave up three quick ones, then showed good character to come back and get the win.”
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The Kings were in Listowel March 9, taking control in the second period and never looking back on route to a 5-0 victory.
After some even play in the first period that ended with no scoring, Elmira broke the game open early in the middle frame. Mason Eurig got things rolling with a goal at 2:04, assisted by Jayden Lammel and Daniel Fraleigh. Less than two minutes later, Jaxson Murray’s unassisted tally made it 2-0.
The Kings extended their lead with Kurtis Goodwin’s goal at 5:45, assisted by Adam Grein and Brody Leblanc. At 11:09, it was Leblanc, from Goodwin and Grein, tallying again for the visitors, who went into the second intermission up 4-0.
The only scoring in the third came off the stick of Aidan Yarde, his 10th of the year a shorthanded marker assisted by Lammel.
Shots were 42-23 for the Kings, including a 21-10 split in the second. Netminder Daniel Botelho picked up the shutout. Both teams came up empty on the power play, Elmira going 0-7 and Listowel 0-6.
On March 12 in Cambridge, the Kings quickly found themselves in a hole from which they couldn’t climb out, ultimately falling 6-3.
The Redhawks were up 2-0 less than five minutes in, a lead they’d take into the room for the first intermission. The break wasn’t helpful to the visitors, however, as Cambridge scored three more in the second, the fifth goal at 11:20 spelling an end to Botelho’s night. He was replaced between the pipes by Matt Lunghi.
The Kings finally responded with a goal from Jack Tos (Grein, Brock Reinhart) at 12:13 to make it 5-1.
The rambunctious play in the second – there were eight minors for roughing – set the tone for the third, where tempers flared and three misconducts were included among the raft of penalties.
The Kings got a goal from Isaac Westlake, assisted by Eurig and Owen O’Donnell, to make it 5-2 less than three minutes into the third before the parade of penalties set in. Amidst all the turmoil, Lammel scored on a penalty shot to make it a 5-3 game at 16:28. Just seconds later, however, Cambridge replied on the power play to restore the three-goal lead. When the buzzer sounded, the clock showed a 6-3 final score in favour of the home team.
Special teams were a factor, with Cambridge going 3-8 with the man advantage, while Elmira was 0-5. Shots were 28-23 in favour of the Redhawks.
“In any sort of competitive atmosphere, you’re going to have a winner and a loser, so you’re going to have someone who’s feeling really, really good and you’re going to have another one who’s battling emotions,” said Collins of the Cambridge match.
“It got a little chippy. I’m sure our guys had some emotions going through them,” he added, noting the game wasn’t as combative as the penalty sheet might indicate. “But, yeah, there were some shenanigans going on.”
It was a different kind of game the following night at the WMC in Elmira, with the Kings ultimately prevailing in a 4-3 win over Listowel.
Luke Eurig’s goal, assisted by Tos and Murray, was the only scoring of the first period, despite the Kings outshooting the visitors 20-4. It was 1-0 Elmira after 20 minutes.
Eurig’s second of the game, from Nathaniel Mott and Grein, gave the Kings a 2-0 at 2:13 of the second, but the Cyclones took over as the period went on, scoring three times in less than three minutes to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
The third period belonged to the Kings, however, who poured it on to outshoot Listowel 16-6 and put up a pair of goal. Lammel scored unassisted at 13:33 to tie the game, with the winner coming from Tos (Mott, Reinhart) less than a minute later.
For the game, shots were 52-24 in favour of Elmira, with Lunghi stopping 21 to post the win. The Kings were 1-4 on the power play, while Listowel was 0-2.
“We had a little burp in the second period, but for 55 minutes of that hockey game, we were really, really good. So that was encouraging to come back after a loss with that effort,” said Collins. “It would have been really disappointing to lose that game considering how much in control we were.”
This weekend, the Kings are in Stratford Friday night to take on the fourth-place Warriors (26-15-0-1) before returning home Sunday for a rematch in game-two of the home-and-home series. The puck drops at the WMC at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to get through a tough weekend. We’ve got Stratford home and home, so that would be a really good test.”