Santa came early for the Elmira Sugar Kings, who swept through a three-game weekend, giving up just two goals in the process.
The wins saw Elmira boost its record to 18-13-1, the 37 points lifting them into fourth place in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Midwestern Conference.
The Kings got rolling on the road December 16, defeating the Caledon Bombers 4-0. Returning home, they beat the KW Siskins 5-1 on Saturday, then besting the Bombers 4-1 in a rematch Sunday afternoon at the WMC.
“We played really well on Saturday. Friday was probably our worst effort of the weekend,” said head coach Scott McMillan.
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“I think what we saw that on Friday was not a very good effort by us, but we rebounded. I think probably we were looking ahead to Saturday a little bit too much. We played one of our best games of the year on Saturday, and then playing three games in two and a half days, there wasn’t a lot left in the tank on Sunday. The guys’ effort was good, so I was happy with Saturday and Sunday.”
Last Friday in Caledon, Madden MacDougall’s goal just a couple of minutes into the game, assisted by Brock Reinhart, proved to be enough, though the visitors didn’t stop there.
At 9:14, Ryan Forwell put the Kings up 2-0, assisted by Joey Martin and Austin Mumby.
In the second, MacDougall struck again at 3:41, this time on a power play, with assists going to Logan Crans and Mumby. Less than four minutes later, it was 4-0 Elmira courtesy of a power-play goal from Luke Della Croce, assisted by MacDougall and Reinhart.
That would be it for the scoring, as the Kings cruised to victory, outshooting Caledon 43-24. Elmira was 2-5 with the man advantage, while the Bombers were 0-3. Netminder Daniel Botelho picked up the shutout.
While the score was 4-0, McMillan said the team seemed to coast through the latter part of the game, with some fatigue from the season catching up with the players.
“I asked them after the game if they’re mentally exhausted from it – it’s been a tough year.”
Back on home ice Saturday, the Kings faced a tougher test in the second-place Siskins.
Elmira set the pace, with the lone goal of the opening period coming early – 2:13 – off the stick of Martin, assisted by Tanner McDonald.
In period number two, the Kings went up 2-0 on another early goal from MacDougall (Della Croce, Jayden Lammel) just 91 seconds in. It was 3-0 at 7:36 when Jackson Heron scored, assisted by Reinhart and Chris Black.
In the third, the home team went up 4-0 – Forwell (Marin, Brady Schwindt) at 5:58 – before the Siskins finally got on the board with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. Dustin Good’s empty-net goal, assisted by Reinhart, at 19:35 capped Elmira’s win.
Shots were 29-25 in favour of the Siskins, with goaltender Hayden Sabourin stopping 28 for the win. Both teams were 0-2 on the power play.
“There are teams that have kind of separated themselves from the rest of the league, and when we can get a win against those teams, it feels good,” said McMillan, referring to the gap between the Stratford Warriors (54 points), Siskins (49) and Cambridge Redhawks (45) and the fourth-place Kings (37 points).
Perhaps looking for a measure of payback after being shut out on home ice two days earlier, the Caledon Bombers played a tighter game Sunday at the WMC. At least to start.
After a scoreless first period, it was Caledon who got on the board first with a goal at 8:39 of the middle frame. But in a span of less than six minutes, the Kings took back control.
Della Croce started the run, scoring at 10:33 with help from MacDougall. Captain Adam Grein’s unassisted shorthanded goal less than two and a half minutes later gave the Kings the lead with what proved to be the game-winner.
Lammel, from Della Croce and MacDougall, capped the run by scoring the goal that made it 3-1 heading into the second intermission.
The lone goal of the third period was potted by Martin at 16:42, assists going to Della Croce and MacDougall.
Elmira outshot the Bombers again, this time 31-19, with Sabourin stopping 18 to post the W. The Kings were 0-2 on the power play, while Caledon was 0-4.
With those three wins in the bag, the Kings switched into holiday mode for a couple of weeks: their next games isn’t until January 7 when they head down the road to Waterloo to face the Siskins. In the meantime, there will be some practices and scrimmages to help the players maintain their form, said McMillan.