The Elmira Sugar Kings swept through the Bandits, winning game four by a score of 6-1 Tuesday night in Brantford to wrap up the first round of the Midwestern Conference playoffs.
The deciding game was decidedly lopsided, the Kings outshooting the home side 17-2 in the first period and 46-17 overall. The two goals Elmira scored in the opening frame proved to be enough, though there would be more to come.
Luke Eurig got things rolling at 8:24, assisted by Jaxson Murray and Logan Crans. About 10 minutes later, he struck again, assisted by Murray. It was 2-0 heading into the intermission.
In the second, power-play goals from Jackson Heron (Liam Eveleigh) and Jack O’Donnell (Nathaniel Mott) put the game well out of reach less than six minutes in. Crans scored at 16:02, assisted by Brady Brezynskie, before the Bandits scored on a power play to make it 5-1 after 40 minutes.
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Caleb Cribbin scored early in the third for Elmira, assisted by Jayden Lammel and O’Donnell, and the 6-1 lead would stand the rest of the way.
The series opened April 6 at the WMC with a 3-0 win, the Kings scoring once in each period in a game that set the tone for what was to come.
Lammel opened the scoring in the first with a power-play marker at 17:11, assists going to Murray and Eurig. In the second, it was Jack Tos who tallied for the Kings, assisted by Jack O’Donnell and Owen O’Donnell, to make it 2-0.
In the third, Brody Leblanc, from Eveleigh and Brock Reinhart, wrapped up the scoring at 11:12.
Netminder Daniel Botelho stopped 11 shots for the shutout, with the Kings putting 25 shots on goal at the other end of the rink. Elmira was 1-5 on the power play, while Brantford was 0-6.
In a series where the Kings scored 16 and gave up just two, defence was definitely a factor.
“The team defence has been solid. They’ve been solid all year – our statistician told us that we set a franchise record for goals against, goals against average, penalty killing goals against – the team defence has been dependable all year,” said head coach Rob Collins.
The goaltenders were a little busier during game two Saturday night in Brantford, as the final total was 37-26 in favour of the Kings, who skated to a 3-1 win.
It was the Bandits who opened the scoring, potting the lone goal of the first period to give the home crowd something to cheer about. Perhaps looking to come out strong after the game-one loss, Brantford outshot the visitors 11-10 in the opening frame.
In the second, however, the tide started to turn on a night that belonged to Kurtis Goodwin. The forward got Elmira on the board in the middle frame, scoring a shorthanded goal at 10:32, assisted by Leblanc. It was 1-1 after 40 minutes.
In the final period, Goodwin (Murray, Lammel) scored a power-play goal at 8:48 to put Elmira ahead, completing the natural hat trick less than three minutes later, assisted by Eurig and Heron. It was 3-1 when the buzzer sounded.
Elmira keeper Matthew Lunghi stopped 25 shots for the win. Elmira was 1-4 with the extra man, while Brantford was 0-6.
As with the first game, the home crowd at the WMC was treated to another shutout victory Sunday afternoon, a 4-0 decision.
Leblanc got things rolling, assisted by Goodwin in the only scoring play of the opening frame, putting the Kings up 1-0 at 12:43. The second period is where the action was, however, as Murray (Crans, Goodwin) scored on the power play at 7:05, followed by Leblanc potting his third at 9:39, assists going to Goodwin and Heron. Jack O’Donnell rounded out the scoring at 14:30, assisted by Tos and Eveleigh.
There was no scoring in the third on route to the 4-0 final. The Kings doubled up on the Bandits where shots were concerned, 40-20. Elmira was 1-2 on the power play, while Brantford was 0-5.
Through the series, Collins said the goal was to concentrate on themselves rather than the opponent, while never taking the other side for granted.
“Blue Line decisions are a major thing we talk about, not trying to force the issue when we don’t have the time and space – take our medicine and set up the battle in the smart area versus forcing that offensive zone blue line or defensive zone play,” he said.
“I told them every game they’ve played up till now, it’s been the easiest compared to the next game. Every game is going to get more difficult,” Collins added, noting the path to the Sutherland Cup is a tough one.
“There’s always room for improvement. And we talked about it where the team who gets to win the trophy, the champion at the end of the season, will be a better version of themselves than where they are right now. So we need to realize we still need to improve.”