Having won two games on the road, the Elmira Sugar Kings’ fell short of winning three in three over the weekend when they fell at home.
A 3-1 win in Listowel last Friday was followed by a 4-3 OT win over the Redhawks in Cambridge the following night. Upon returning home Sunday, however, the Kings were unable to keep up the momentum, falling 4-2 to the Ayr Centennials in a match that was decided in the final minute.
“It was a good weekend. We were working hard, and things are generally going to tend to go your way when you’re working hard. So, we were pretty good in all facets of the game,” said head coach Scott McMillan of the weekend’s play.
“We were pretty tired – three games in three nights – but we worked hard.”
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The weekend started well on Friday the 13th, with the Kings visiting the Listowel Cyclones.
The only scoring of the first period came off the stick of Elmira’s Jayden Lammel at 4:23, with help from Adam Grein and Brock Reinhart.
In the second, the Kings again provided the lone goal-scorer. This time it was Dustin Good, from Chris Black and Lammel, who made it 2-0 at 8:56, which is where things would stand heading into the second intermission.
Grein’s shorthanded goal just 38 seconds into the final frame, assisted by Luke Della Croce, definitely sealed Listowel’s fate, though the home side would finally get on the board with a power-play goal with less than four minutes on the clock.
Shots were 27-19 in favour of the Kings, with netminder Daniel Botelho stopping 18 on route to the win.
Elmira was 0-4 on the power play, while the Cyclones were 1-7.
The Kings were in tougher Saturday night in Cambridge, where a power play that clicked proved to be a key part of the eventual victory.
There were a few scares along the way, starting with the fact the home team was up 1-0 before the game was a minute old. It would be more than 18 minutes before the Kings replied, Madden MacDougall’s power-play goal at 19:07 tying the score. Assists went to Grein and Reinhart.
In the second, the scoring plays belonged to the visitors. Della Croce scored at 5:01 with Elmira enjoying the man advantage, with help from Reinhart and Austin Mumby. Ten minutes later it was 3-1 for the Kings when Mumby collected his first of the season from Malcolm Scott and Good.
Things got hairy in the third, however, as the Redhawks scored twice in a four-minute span late in the period to tie it at 3-3 and forcing overtime.
Just shy of the three-minute mark in extra time, Good (Reinhart) ended any thought of a Cambridge comeback, capping a 4-3 victory.
The Redhawks edged the Kings 24-22 on the shot front, though it was Elmira that had the edge when it came to special teams, going 2-7 on the power play while Cambridge was 0-5. Hayden Sabourin stopped 21 shots to earn the win.
“Saturday night, we worked hard, competed hard. Those are games where you can work hard, and it can go either way,” said McMillan of the outcome that went Elmira’s way.
Back on home ice Sunday night, the Kings found themselves in another tight game, one decided only in the final minute of play.
The host side fell behind in the first period, the Ayr Centennials scoring shorthanded with less than eight minutes to go and holding that 1-0 lead right into the intermission.
In the second, however, two goals 65 seconds apart let the Kings take a short-lived lead.
Brady Schwindt’s goal at 11:18, assisted by Mumby and Jackson Heron, tied it up. At 12:23, Lammel (Black, Grein) made it a 2-1 game, though Ayr would reply just over five minutes later while on the power play. The teams headed back to their rooms deadlocked at 2-2. And that’s how it would remain until there were just 29 seconds left on the clock, when the Centennials went up 3-2 before scoring an empty-netter with just a second to go.
Ayr also had the edge in shots, 33-30, going 1-3 on the power play, while Elmira was 0-3. Botelho stopped 29 in the losing effort.
“It’s really tough to be that close to getting that point and going in overtime and having a chance at the extra point and then losing them both with 30 seconds left,” said the coach, noting there were plenty of teachable moments coming out of that game.
This weekend, the Kings (21-15-1) are in Caledon (6-31 ) Friday night, then return home for a Sunday matinee (2 p.m.) against the Listowel Cyclones (16-16-2). That game will feature the team’s annual charity auction, with proceeds to Friends of Hockey.