The Elmira Sugar Kings took three of the four points up for grabs last weekend, winning in Brantford 4-2 December 3 and dropping a 3-2 OT decision to visiting Stratford Sunday night at the WMC.
A rematch with the last-place Bandits provided the W, but it wasn’t perhaps the best way to prepare for taking on the Warriors, who now sit atop the GOJHL’s Midwestern Conference standings.
“We played Brantford for two games in a row going into the Stratford game. It took us probably 15 minutes just to remember what it felt like to play at that pace – they overwhelmed us for the first 15 minutes, just because we weren’t used to playing at that pace,” said head coach Scott McMillan of the slow start that may have seen the Kings miss out on two points Sunday.
“We were down 1-0 after the first, and we did a good job of battling back and getting back in the game. I think they were outshooting us 15-3 at one time, and the shots ended up being 35-34. We felt like we were the better team for the second half of the game. But it’s tough when you have a start like that.”
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The weekend had got off to a good start in Brantford Saturday night. It wasn’t the 8-1 hurting the Kings had put on the Bandits six days earlier in Elmira, but the team was in control from the get-go.
The Kings opened the scoring just 90 seconds in, a Luke Della Croce marker assisted by Logan Crans and Brock Reinhart. Two more goals before the end of the period would be enough to put the game out of reach. Joey Martin scored at 8:25, with assists going to Austen Pomerleau and Jackson Heron. Just 13 seconds later it was 3-0 courtesy of Della Croce’s second of the game. Helpers went to Jacob Feijo and Ryan Forwell.
It was 4-0 Elmira just over a minute after play resumed in the second courtesy of a goal by Madden MacDougall (Adam Grein, Jayden Lammel). That would prove to be more than enough.
The Bandits got on the board with less than six minutes remaining in the middle frame, adding another in the third to make it a 4-2 final.
Shots were 49-22 in favour of the visitors, an indication of the game’s flow. The Kings were 0-3 on the power play, while the Bandits never had the man advantage. Goaltender Daniel Botelho earned the win.
It was a bit more of a struggle the following day as the Kings returned to home ice to face Stratford. The team was caught flatfooted, with the visitors scoring early in the opening period and outshooting Elmira 15-6 to take a 1-0 into the first intermission.
Just past four minutes into the second, the Warriors made it 2-0, but the Kings were picking up the pace. Martin made it 2-1 at 14:27 with a power-play goal, assisted by Forwell and MacDougall. Shots were 14-9 in favour of the home team that was battling back.
The sole scoring play in the third came off the stick of MacDougall (Austin Mumby, Martin) to make it a 2-2 game as the Kings again outshot the visitors 10-7 over the 20-minute span. The comeback fell short, however, when Stratford scored at 6:55 of overtime to take the win.
The loss wasn’t for lack of trying, said McMillan.
“We got the win on Saturday, but Sunday was definitely our better game,” he said, noting the Kings were right there in it against Stratford.
“We had a couple of breakaways. We had a couple of really good chances, a couple guys alone in front. I think everybody in the rink would say that their goalie was probably the best player in the game that night. Our goalie was good, too, but their goalie was called on a little bit more, and he answered the call on almost all the chances.”
This weekend the Kings (14-12-1) are in Listowel to take on the Cyclones (14-10-1) Friday night, returning to the WMC Sunday to host the Cambridge Redhawks (18-5-4-1). The puck drops at 7 p.m.