Michael Hasson was the Kings’ hero Sunday afternoon. But the goaltenders were the real stars. Elmira goaltender Nick Horrigan and Guelph Hurricanes puckstopper Taylor O’Keefe put on a display of unforgettable skills in front of 668 fans at the Dan Snyder Arena. Hasson ended the goaltending battle, firing a wrist shot to beat O’Keefe with just a minute remaining in the game to give the Kings a 4-3 win.
“The opportunities were there and we had a couple of things that we wanted to focus on that created a lot of our shots,” said Elmira head coach Dean DeSilva. “I give Guelph full credit: they made most of their opportunities.”
Elmira came out flat in the first period, which allowed Guelph to draw first blood during a man advantage on a goal by Chris Zubac with an assist from netminder O’Keefe. Cash Seraphim, however, tied the game when Lukas Baleshta circled the net with the puck, drawing out O’Keefe. A quick chip to Seraphim allowed him to easily tap in the equalizer.
Defenceman Brodie Whitehead would give the Kings the lead heading into the first intermission when he was fed the puck by Baleshta and fired a one-timer that struck Guelph’s Chad Bauman in the leg before bouncing into the net. Scott Nagy would collect the other assist.
Returning to the ice for the second period, Elmira again had a sleepy start, allowing Guelph’s Shane Kinsella to tie the game at 6:51.
“We were a little soft in our own zone and soft at our blue line – we have to be stronger than that,” said DeSilva. “We have to do a better job of supporting our zone and not leaving too early and keep the back pressure on which will help our defence. We have a young defence and they have come along way.”
With the teams tied 2-2 early in the second, Guelph’s Chris Taylor one-timed a pass from the top of the crease, but Horrigan flashed the right pad to keep it out.
Not to be outdone, O’Keefe came up with a mammoth diving glove save off Elmira’s Brett Priestap with seven minutes remaining in the frame.
Horrigan continued the game of whatever-you-can-do-I-can-do-better with his own incredible glove save, stoning Taylor once again with five minutes remaining on the clock.
O’Keefe was magical in the second period stopping 19 shots until Andrew Smith, who had been antagonizing the keeper all period, beat him with a chip to the stick-side, giving the boys in green a 3-2 lead heading back to the room.
The third frame was a hard-fought battle for both teams that saw many chances easily stopped by the two goaltenders. O’Keefe continued to showcase his talent as he stopped 17 shots in the period.
Priestap sent a cross-ice pass to Riley Sonnenburg, who crushed a one-timer just two minutes in but O’Keefe slid across the crease to make the save. It was a sign of things to come as O’Keefe made a pair of glove saves during an Elmira surge, robbing both Smith and Sonnenburg once again. Guelph would make the contest interesting with less than two minutes to play when Baleshta was sent to the box for a slashing call. Pulling their netminder and giving them a 6-on-4 advantage, the Hurricanes would beat Horrigan when Kinsella fired a wrist shot high left to tie the game 3-3.
That is when the Elmira fans turned up the volume and started chanting “Go Kings Go,’ and 13 seconds later the Kings would pot the winning goal when Brett Catto passed to Brady Campbell as he skated down the ice into Guelph’s zone and slipped the rubber to Hasson, who fired a beautiful wrist shot that eluded O’Keefe on the blocker side. Horrigan stopped 21 of 24 shots for the win while O’Keefe stopped 55 of 59 for the Hurricanes.
With seven games to go in the regular season, the Kings are third in the Midwestern Conference with a record of 34-9-1. Brantford (37-6-3) leads, followed by Stratford (37-8-0) who face off against the Kings on Friday night.
DeSilva was pleased with his team’s win and is preparing for the Kings’ playoff run.
“Our goal moving forward to the playoffs is that we want to do those ordinary things better than everybody else, the things that teams take for granted like getting the puck out, being stronger on our blue line and finishing our checks. We need to be doing a better job on those than any other team.”
The Kings play at home against Waterloo Sunday. Game time is 7 p.m.