Still coming together, Kings drop pair to open the season
GOJHL Showcase in Brantford sees losses to Caledonia, London. Team opens at home Sunday
STARTING THE SEASON AT the GOJHL Showcase in Brantford, the Elmira Sugar Kings may have had a few things on display last weekend, but wins weren’t one of them. The team dropped both games at the event, 4-3 to Caledonia and 5-2 to London.
Playing at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, the Kings were the visitors in Saturday night’s match against the Pro-Fit Corvairs, taking the loss when the home team scored twice in the final 20 seconds to eke out a win.
Elmira took the lead in the opening period, with forward Zack Cameron drawing first blood, with assists from fellow forward Ethan Skinner and defenseman Dylan Bond. Caledonia then evened the count in the next period, setting the stage at 1-1 for what would be the dra- matic and chaotic final 20 minutes of the game.
Five minutes into the third frame, Elmira forward Kurtis Goodwin (from Mason McMahon and Spencer Comelli) put the Kings up 2-1. Just 20 second later, forward Matt Mackay extended that lead with another goal, assisted by Ty Biles and Jonah Burley.
With the scoreboard standing at 3-1 and less than 15 minutes on the clock, it seemed the Kings had a pretty good shot at picking up two point. It was not to be.
Caledonia scored the next goal with roughly nine minutes to spare, making the score 3-2. After that, Elmira held the line, letting nothing past but getting nothing through. The clock wound down with both sides unable to change the game. With one-and-a-half minutes to go, Caledonia, desperate for at least one more point, pulled their goalie for some more firepower. They were fighting for one point; instead they got two.
With 20 seconds left and an extra attacker on the ice, Caledonia knotted things up 3-3. And then, with only eight seconds on the clock, Caledonia got the go-ahead marker, the score 4-3 when the buzzer sounded.
“I thought we carried the play for a good chunk of the game,” said Jeff Snyder, director of hockey operations for the Kings. “Just had a bad 20 seconds at the end of the game that cost us. But that’s probably the team to beat in Ontario and we were right there with them for the whole game, played really well so we’re pretty happy with that performance.
“It was our first game for a lot of guys, and we’re pretty happy with that game.”
It was a close game for the Kings, with the team dominating right up until the last moments. The next day’s matchup against the London Nationals would not be quite so close.
Playing once more at the Gretzky main rink on Sunday, the Sugar Kings and London team faced off in a match that was similar to Saturday’s only in that most of the scoring came in the final frame.
Sugar King’s forward Bailey Molella potted their team’s first just 30 seconds into the game, with forwards Ryan Takamatsu and Jeff Jordan claiming assists.
It was a strong way to start the game for the Kings, but from there, the team struggled to press the advantage. London tied things up in the second, making it 1-1 heading into what would be a wild third period.
London quickly went ahead with a power play goal in the first 18 seconds. Elmira pushed back minutes later, with forward Keanan Stewart (Matt Murray) evening things at 2-2.
From there, London went on a rampage. They broke through the Kings’ defences in the final quarter of the frame, scoring one, and then another and then the final point of the match. Elmira pulled their goalie leaving the net open for that final point by London, which ended with their 5-2 loss.
“We came out and got off to a pretty good start,” said Snyder about the match against London. “But then they seemed to kind of take over the play partway through the game, and the game didn’t go quite as well hoped
“We weren’t quite as happy with our performance Sunday, I think,” he added.
“We need our top forwards to generate a bit more offense than we did on the weekend. We didn’t generate a lot of offense, especially Sunday night. But it’s early in the year and it always takes time to gel your team, but we knew it was going to be a tough weekend.”
It wasn’t a good start, but Snyder said he is confident the team can recover. Some more practice, he says, and a bit of time will help the team really come together.
With play back in the Midwestern Conference, the Kings will be in Listowel Friday night to take on the Cyclones. The home-opener goes Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. as the Guelph Hurricanes blow into town. Sunday’s game at the WMC will also be preceded by a ceremony to mark last season’s Sutherland Cup championship.
“We’re really excited about Sunday. They’re raising the banner for us winning the Sutherland Cup last year, and we’re presenting the rings to the players, so that’ll be an exciting day,” said Snyder.