Despite orchestrating a third period surge that saw them valiantly climb back from a 5-1 deficit, the Elmira Sugar Kings were unable to force the overtime in game one of their best-of-seven series with the Kitchener Dutchmen.
Tuesday’s game saw the visiting Kings fight back to 5-4, after coughing up two quick goals in the first period.
A turnover at centre ice allowed Kitchener’s Jordan Hardy to bank one in on the first shift, just 37 seconds into the game. Assists went to Mike Doran and Shawn Bechtloff
“We left [goalie] Brandon [Wysman] hanging out to dry, sort of, and we paid the price: we don’t want to give up odd-man rushes to these guys and we did that in the very first shift of the game and they scored,” said Haddaway after the game.
“They’re very, very strong in transition, so, if you give them a chance at centre ice or blue line, they’ll come guns a blazing.”
Dutchmen Collin Carwardine, from Tony Blyde and Matthew DeJong added another at 1:20 to make it 2-0. Being caught flatfooted and unaware might have been the motif in the first period, however, as the Sugar Kings returned the barb a few seconds later when Trent Brown, from Brent Freeman and Josh Ranalli, made it a 2-1 game at 1:56.
Before the first period buzzer sounded, the Dutchmen got back on the marker scoring two successive goals at 7:37 and 18:03. Alex Lubczuk, from Tanner DeWitt and Bechtloff, and Doran, from Duston Hebebrand and Collin Cawardine, increased their team’s lead to 4-2.
Netminder Wysman was yanked in favour of Jake Williams, after 20 minutes of play, allowing four goals on 15 shots.
Kitchener continued building on its lead in the second period when Lubczuk, from Duston Hebebrand, made it 5-1 just 57 seconds into the middle frame.
Clearly in need of a reaction, the Kings plugged in their energy lines. Kyle Blaney, from Paul Thompson and Brown converted on the power play at 15:29 of the second stanza to make it 5-2.
Blaney, playing with Tyler Kuntz and Michael Therrien, as well as Zach Salomon, Jarred Parent, and Nic McEachern, hustled out, applying pressure and blocking shots. Andrew Smith, call-up Brock Gerber, a former Applejack, and Paul Thompson, also got into the game helping spark a buzz amongst their teammates.
“I asked them to create some energy and they went out and scored … I guess they accomplished their goal,” said Haddaway.
In the third period, Blaney, from Kuntz and Brown, again on the power play, potted his second at 3:34. Smith put his team within inches of a tie, converting on Gerber’s assist at 11:19 to make it 5-4.
Unfortunately for the Kings however, the Dutchmen were able to grind through the remaining half of the third period without giving up another goal, earning their first win in the series.
“We did run out of time but you can’t look at it and say, ‘if there were five more minutes left’ – well, we had 60 minutes to do the job; we didn’t do it in those 60 minutes, so the blame lays at our feet and no one else’s,” said Haddaway.
Despite the unfavourable conclusion to game-one, the Kings noted there were positives to be found.
“It’s nice to know that we can compete with that team; we just have to put a full 60 minutes together if we want to come out on top; we need to play the whole game, can’t take any shifts off or they’re going to capitalize,” said Kuntz.
The fact that his team was able to rally back from such a significant deficit was encouraging.
Once the Kings started “moving their feet” they were able to create some havoc in front of the net and were able to scrape their way back into the game, said Haddaway.
“You’ve got to draw some positives out of every game. I think we learned, hopefully, reinforced that if we try and do things their way, then we’re going to be in trouble. If we give them opportunities in transition or odd man rushes, they’re just so talented that we’re asking for trouble.”
The Kings are in Kitchener tonight (Saturday) for game two, before coming home on Sunday for game three in Elmira. The puck drops at 7 p.m.