This sea­son proved to be a wild ride for Kings

Af­ter a strong reg­u­lar sea­son per­for­mance, Elmira pow­ered through two rounds of play­offs and wild­card berth to claim the Suther­land Cup

The Woolwich Observer - - SPORTS - LIZ BE­VAN

IT WAS A VERY long sea­son for the Elmira Sugar Kings, but ab­so­lutely no one on the team had any com­plaints about that. A strong sea­son was capped by 27 play­off games that led to the ul­ti­mate prize: the Suther­land Cup, awarded to the best Ju­nior B team in the prov­ince.

The team fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son in sec­ond place in the Greater On­tario Ju­nior Hockey League’s Mid­west­ern Con­fer­ence with 77 points from 38 wins and only 11 losses. They didn’t make it to the Cher­rey Cup this year de­spite tak­ing out the Guelph Hur­ri­canes and the Kitch­ener Dutch­men, fol­lowed by a dis­ap­point­ing fi­nal se­ries loss against the Lis­towel Cy­clones in Game 6, but the year wasn’t over yet.

The sea­son con­tin­ued af­ter the Kings earned them­selves the wild­card spot in the league-wide Suther­land Cup se­ries. The team made it through the semi-fi­nals in six games against three­time cup win­ners the Cale­do­nia Cor­vairs, be­fore mov­ing on to dom­i­nate the Lon­don Na­tion­als.

The Kings hoisted the Suther­land Cup in Lon­don af­ter an ex­cit­ing Game 5 win on May 5, post­ing a 4-1 vic­tory. They won the first three games of the se­ries (3-2, 2-0, 4-1) be­fore com­ing up just short of a se­ries sweep in Game 4, los­ing 6-4.

For­mer head coach Ty Canal says the win only hap­pened be­cause the team banded to­gether af­ter the tough Cher­rey Cup loss to Lis­towel. It wasn’t all smooth sail­ing.

“It is not of­ten that you get a sec­ond chance at the ul­ti­mate goal. The first prac­tice af­ter that loss was tough,” he said. “Any time you lose it isn’t easy and that was the mood. We had a talk with them, though and by that sec­ond prac­tice, ev­ery­body had flipped a switch. It was good hockey to watch.”

For Canal, how­ever, it isn’t just about the big win at the end. It was about see­ing the play­ers just get bet­ter and bet­ter on the ice.

“De­fen­sive play was huge for us. We worked on that all through­out the reg­u­lar sea­son … and when things are tight and you have a one-goal game, or if we are tak­ing too many penal­ties, that could end the sea­son,” he said. “They re­ally stepped up and re­ally fo­cused on that, and I think we el­e­vated from there. We want to be tough to play against. Those things from a coach­ing stand­point, watch­ing the play­ers de­velop, it is just fun to be there.”

For Kings’ for­ward Jake Brown, the 2016-2017 sea­son marked the fourth time he has won the Suther­land Cup, hav­ing played his first three years of Ju­nior hockey with Cale­do­nia as the Cor­vairs rat­tled off three con­sec­u­tive cup wins.

Along with three other play­ers on the Kings, it was also Brown’s last year of ju­nior hockey. Brown, goalie Jon­athan Rein­hart and Joshua Slegers have com­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of Wind­sor Lancers. Quin­ten Bruce is also be mov­ing on next year, hav­ing aged out of Ju­nior.

Mitch Hoelscher will be spend­ing next sea­son with the Ot­tawa 67s. He was drafted 56th over­all in the 2016 OHL Pri­or­ity Draft and was called up six times this sea­son.

Canal has stepped down from the team, with as­sis­tant coach Trent Brown tak­ing over the role of head coach. Canal says a team like the Sugar Kings is hard to find.

“You can get a team that is re­ally close and they all want to play for each other, but that is hard to find. These guys are all friends,” he said.

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