The Elmira Sugar Kings’ hold on fourth place in the Midwestern Conference fell to just one point as the team dropped two of its last three games.
Playing a make-up game for one postponed earlier in the season, the Kings dropped a 3-2 decision to Listowel on February 8, following that with a 5-3 win over Caledon on February 11 and a 4-3 loss to Waterloo on Sunday.
“It was not one of our better weeks, for sure. The Wednesday game against Listowel, we got outworked, outcompeted – they mostly outplayed us for the whole game. And Saturday, home to Caledon, kind of the same story. They outworked us and outcompeted us at the start. We were able to get it going later on, but it was two games where we got outworked for large parts,” said head coach Scott McMillan.
Listowel is always a tough game for the Kings, and the midweek match was no exception. After a scoreless opening period, the Cyclones were on the board first with a goal less than two minutes into the middle frame. The 1-0 lead didn’t last long, however, as Elmira’s Brock Reinhart replied at 4:23, a power-play marker assisted by Brennan Kennedy. That 1-1 score would hold through the rest of the period.
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The Cyclones regained the lead just 33 seconds into the third with a power-play goal. It would take more than 13 minutes for the Kings to tie it up again. Jackson Heron, from Jacob Feijo and Brady Schwindt, made it 2-2 at 14:01.
But just over a minute later, Listowel capitalized on another power play to take a 3-2 lead that would stand at the final buzzer.
Shots were 32-24 in favour of the home side, with Elmira netminder Daniel Botelho making 29 stops in the losing cause. The Kings were 1-5 on the power play, while Listowel was 2-4.
Special teams were a factor again Saturday night as the Kings ended up having their hands full with the seventh-place Caledon Bombers who looked decidedly better than a team with just six wins all season.
In fact, the Bombers were up 2-0 in the first, including a power-play goal to open the scoring four minutes in, before Elmira’s Luke Della Croce finally got the home team on the board. The power-play goal at 19:21, assisted by Ryan Forwell and Madden MacDougall, made it a 2-1 game heading back into the room for the first time.
The Kings tied it at 2-2 when Heron (Schwindt) scored at 13:23, but just over three minutes later, the Bombers retook the lead on the power play.
Adam Grein’s goal with just one second left on the clock meant the game was tied again heading into the second intermission. Assists went to Forwell and Reinhart.
Things picked up for the Kings after the intermission. Jayden Lammel scored just over two minutes after play resumed, assisted by Della Croce and MacDougall. At 8:15, a power-play goal by Liam Eveleigh (Grein) rounded out the scoring, the 5-3 Elmira lead standing until the end.
Elmira ended up outshooting Caledon 37-28, going 3-9 on the power play versus 2-7 for the visitors. Goaltender Hayden Sabourin stopped 25 to help pace the Kings to victory.
The Kings faced stiffer competition Sunday in Waterloo against the second-place Siskins, doing so without some of their top players, including MacDougall and Eveleigh who’d been suspended one game after a head-contact incident during the previous day’s match.
The team was also without Dustin Good and Joey Martin, who’s expected back from the injured list soon, said McMillan.
The Siskins scored first in what would prove to be a back-and-forth match.
Down 1-0 at 5:09 of the opening period, the Kings replied at 9:57 with a power-play goal off the stick of Chris Black (Kennedy, Della Croce) to make it 1-1. But the Siskins scored again at 18:56 to make it 2-1 and set the stage for what would be more late-period scoring.
In the second, the Kings made it 2-2 when Malcolm Scott scored at 7:04, assisted by Tanner McDonald. Exactly nine minutes later, Waterloo retook the lead, though that would stand for less than three minutes before Heron scored shorthanded at 19:13, assisted by Della Croce, to make it 3-3.
The third was tightly contested – shots were just 6-6 – but it was Waterloo with the late goal at 18:43 to decide the outcome, a 4-3 final.
The final shot tally was 26-20 in favour of the home team. Botelho stopped 22 for Elmira.
Despite the loss, McMillan said he felt Sunday’s was the best effort by the squad of the past three games.
“We liked our game. They got a few more shots than us, but we felt like we had dictated the terms of the game. For us to do that is encouraging going into playoffs knowing that we can play with anybody and we can make life really difficult for any team, no matter who it is. Sunday was a good effort. We’re really happy with that.”
The Kings (27-18-1) meet the Brantford Bandits (2-42-2) twice in the penultimate weekend in the GOJHL regular season. The team is in Brantford Saturday night, then returns home for Family Day matinee Monday at the WMC. Game time is 2 p.m.