Special teams played a big part in the outcome as the Elmira Sugar Kings split last weekend’s games. After posting a 3-2 win in Listowel, the team fell at home Sunday to Cambridge.
The weekend results reflected the level of play, whereas previous split weekends could have seen the Kings pick up additional wins, says director of hockey operations Scott McMillan.
“Previous times, the results were mixed but the play was pretty consistent. I think this is the first weekend where the play was really a mixed bag, not just the results,” he explained. “A really good effort Friday night, and then our first kind of down night… on Sunday wasn’t a good game at all.”
On October 28, the Kings faced the Listowel Cyclones for the first time this season, coming back from being down twice to win the game.
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The home side was on the board first with a power-play goal before Elmira’s Liam Eveleigh scored on the power play at 13:17 of the opening period, with assists going to Adam Grein and Madden MacDougall. Just over two minutes later, Listowel potted the only even-strength goal of the night to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
It was a different story in the second, however. Grein scored a power-play goal at 3:56 to tie it up at 2-2, assisted by Eveleigh and MacDougall. The eventual game-winner came at 12:59, an unassisted shorthanded goal by Logan Crans.
Neither team scored in the third, assuring the Kings a 3-2 victory. Shots were 20-14 in favour of the visitors, with Elmira netminder Daniel Botelho stopping 12 to post the win.
“It was a good game up there. They are another team that works really hard and competes hard, and it’s never easy to win in that building,” said McMillan. “They’re always well prepared, and they always work hard. So to get two points on a Friday night in Listowel, it’s always good.
“For our boys, that was probably our best game of the year. We were really, really good on Friday, which kind of turns around and we have one of our worst nights on Sunday.”
Things started out well enough at the WMC on Sunday night, as Jackson Heron scored an unassisted goal just 3:20 into the game, but that would be it for the Kings.
Cambridge scored late in the first to tie it, and after a scoreless second, the visitors picked up the lone goal of the third to take the 2-1 win.
The score wasn’t really indicative of the play, McMillan said. The Redhawks outshot the Kings 30-17, with Botelho keeping his team in the game.
Still, there were some positives, he added.
“Even on a night where we don’t play well, we’re still able to stay in the game and have a chance to maybe get a lucky bounce. To lose only 2-1one on a night where we really weren’t good speaks to our commitment to defense, playing hard and making life hard for the other team,” said McMillan.
“To only give up two goals to a really good team on a night when we weren’t good, your goalie had to be good, but our team defense was still pretty good.”
The young Elmira squad faces another challenge rolling into this weekend, with three games in four nights for the first time this season.
The Kings (8-7) are in Ayr on Thursday night to face the Centennials (10-7) before returning home for games against the conference-leading KW Siskins (14-2) on Saturday and the second-place Stratford Warriors (12-5) on Sunday. Game time both nights at the WMC is 7 p.m.