The Elmira Sugar Kings are a young squad this year, and the first couple of games of the season prove that point. The team opened with losses to Ayr and Stratford.
The team opened the 2022-23 Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season on the road in Ayr September 8, dropping a 6-1 decision to the Centennials.
The home side went up 5-0 before the Kings responded in the third with a goal from Madden MacDougall, assisted by Luke Della Croce and Tanner McDonald.
Things were a little tighter at the home-opener Sunday, with the Stratford Warriors going up by four before a third-period goal from Dylan Szymanowski, assisted by Chris Black, rounded out the scoring of a 4-1 final.
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“I think it’s safe to say we were outgunned in both games,” said head coach Rob Collins, noting the team was missing some of its veterans due to injuries and suspensions from the preseason.
For the most part, the young players, some of them in their first of junior game, handled themselves well, he added.
“We’re really, really young. We went against a motivated Ayr team in their home-opener, and then against an experienced Stratford team in our home-opener. That’s something we can kind of hang our hat on, that our effort was right the whole time. I’m proud of that. We’ll build on that,” said Collins.
“Now we’re returning a few guys from suspension and Liam Eveleigh is just about due back from his injury this summer. I think the look of the team will be far, far different moving forward, having those experienced players come back into play.”
The Kings are waiting on the return of new captain Adam Grein, along with the likes of Jackson Heron and Liam Eveleigh. That will make a big difference, says Collins.
“Those are major pieces to what we believe is going to be a successful group. Any team, if you take out five or six of their top six or seven players, it’s going to be difficult for them.”
Playing without some of the more experience players, the young guys did well, said the coach.
“Considering the inexperience and the nerves that were probably out there, the team did really well. They didn’t they didn’t embarrass themselves,” he said. “The effort was right, so we can work with that, that’s for sure. We’re still really excited about the group we’ve got, moving forward.”
The Kings are in Listowel Friday night to take on the Cyclones before welcoming Stratford back to the WMC Sunday night (7 p.m.) for a rematch.