The Elmira Sugar Kings got their first taste of victory of the young season, winning both games down in Niagara last weekend.
After besting the St. Catharines Falcons 2-0 on Friday night, the Kings beat the Caledonia Corvairs 4-1 on Sunday. Their record now sits at 2-3, moving them up into fifth place in the Midwestern Conference.
“We had a great weekend, with two really quality wins against two good teams,” said head coach Rob Collins.
“We’re hoping it’s really good for the guys’ confidence going forward – I think it should be. They got a taste of that winning, and they seem to enjoy the taste, so hopefully they get addicted.”
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First up at the two-game series against the Golden Horseshoe Conference, held at the Pelham arena in Fonthill, the Kings faced the defending Sutherland Cup champion Falcons. Playing with a full lineup for the first time, the Kings were up for the challenge, collecting their first win.
After a scoreless first period, it was Elmira getting on the board first when Austen Pomerleau scored at 11:36 of the second, assisted by Joey Martin and Ian Speiran. It would remain a one-goal game until just 44 seconds were left in the game, when captain Adam Grein took advantage of the vacated St. Catharines net to make it a 2-0 final score.
Shots were 27-24 in favour of the Falcons, with Elmira netminder Daniel Botelho posting the shutout. The Kings were 0-3 on the power play, while the Falcons were 0-2.
Two days later, it was the Corvairs who’d face a rejuvenated Elmira squad.
As with the previous match, the first period saw no scoring. The Kings needed just 81 seconds in the second to make it 1-0, however. Luke Della Croce found the back of the net on an Elmira power play, with assists going to Taylor Bothwell and Chris Black.
Caledonia got one back seven minutes later, but that would be it for their scoring.
At 10:36, another Elmira power-play goal – Jayden Lammel, from Madden MacDougall and Grein – gave the Kings the lead for good.
In the third, goals from Della Croce (Brock Reinhart) and Pomerleau (Speiran) in the first few minutes put the game away.
Shots were 17-14 in favour of Caledonia, with goaltender Hayden Sabourin stopping 13 to earn the win.
Collins said he’s happy to see the team coming together, stressing the effort has been there right from day-one, so the results will come.
“It’s absolutely getting there. The power play went 2-5, the penalty killing was outstanding – we were 100 per cent on the weekend. It’s good, and it’s by committee. We don’t have one or two or three guys kind of carrying the load offensively or defensively – it’s in strength by committee,” he explained.
“It’s been a lot of fun that way to see the guys respond to the fact that everyone needs to pull on the rope. Everyone’s stepped up and done it so far, especially this weekend.”
With a big change to the roster this season, including some raw rookies, the coaching staff expected it would take some time for the team to gel, said Collins.
“It’s a little bit of a different year for us, because we’re so young and with so many first-year players that we had to take a little bit of a different approach. But the guys are certainly picking everything up really quickly. This weekend certainly showed that there’s fun to be had this year for them in the form of success that age shouldn’t be a factor,” he said.
“Some of the guys are learning new systems and stuff. Sometimes guys are learning systems for the first time – there’s a learning curve when it comes to stuff like that. I think our young guys are showing that they’re ahead of the curve.
“Now that we’ve got everyone back and more familiar with each other, this weekend was a good indicator that it seems to be going the right way.”
The Sugar Kings are in Stratford tomorrow (Friday) looking to avenge a pair of early-season losses to the Warriors (4-3). On Sunday, they welcome the Cambridge Redhawks (3-1-0-1) to the WMC. Game time is 7 p.m.