It was an exciting game that kept the home fans enthralled from the moment the first puck was dropped until the third-period buzzer sounded, ending a game that, for its full 60 minutes, could have gone either way. Unfortunately for the home side, the Guelph Dominators took the edge Jan. 25, defeating the Elmira Sugar Kings 6-5 in a real nail-biter.
Coming off a 7-5 loss to third-place Listowel (25-11-8) on Jan. 23, the Kings were eager to win one in their own barn.
In a tight battle, the winning goal wasn’t scored until the 19-minute mark of the third frame.
“We showed a lot of positives in the first couple periods. I thought we really tested their “D,” and our power play was working, our penalty kill was effective; and in the third period I just thought we got away from that, got away from what our strengths were and what led to success and that’s what cost us,” said coach Geoff Haddaway after the game.
Elmira’s Jarred Parent, who didn’t stop hustling all night, opened the scoring for the home side, combining with Nic MacEachern and Paul Thompson at 7:54.
“I thought we worked really hard, we just couldn’t hold them off in the third period but we had a few lapses. I still think we worked hard,” said Parent.
A short while later, Trent Brown intercepted a puck in front of his own net, blocking a lose puck with his glove, and then stormed out of his own end and into the Guelph zone before yielding the puck to his offense. Brent Freeman, now in eighth place in the league’s scoring leaders race with 68 points (26 goals and 42 assists) in 42 games, banked it in; Kyle McNeil and Josh Ranalli picked up the assists at 9:39.
The Dominators’ Mike McFarlane, from Dustin Campbell and GianPaul Delle Donne, netted one at 12:45.
Elmira’s Brown, who saw as much action on his own blue line as he did up front, added to his team’s lead while on the power play at 14:32; Jutzi and Freeman picked up the assists.
Guelph got one back in the second period as Dylan Wood, from Paul Gorz and Scott Collins made it a 3-2 game at 2:43 of the middle frame. The Kings responded shortly after, however, and Freeman, from Ranalli and Jutzi, doubled Elmira’s lead at 4:47, wrapping around the Guelph net to score Elmira’s fourth.
It was now 4-2 and things looked good for the Kings; the goals seemed to come easily.
But if the Kings controlled the first period, and to a lesser extent the second, then the third period was all about the Dominators. The visitors netted three consecutive goals to edge over the Kings 5-4. Tyson Theaker (Dan Mohle), McFarlane (Collins, Gorz) and Ken Rolph (Dan McTaggart, Craig Dool) scored one each at 1:04, 9:03 and 10:32 respectively.
The Kings, who struggled to rid their zone of the puck, were totally outplayed by the Dominators for the first of half of the third period.
“The first shift of the third period we had a real poor shift and then lost a D-zone draw right away on the second shift and they scored, and I think that deflated us a little too much and it shouldn’t,” said Haddaway.
Parent had a similar take on the match.
“I think while we lost to Waterloo in the first game and then lost to Listowel in the second game in the third period, and then when Guelph made it 4-3 I think it was just psychological. We couldn’t believe in ourselves anymore,” said Parent.
For his part Haddaway noted that the Kings should learn from this faltered step.
“It should be upsetting, but it shouldn’t end up costing us the hockey game. We should be able to be a little bit more resilient than that.”
Aware that they had, in roughly 10 minutes, squandered a healthy 4-2 lead, the Kings did what they could to salvage the game. They were rewarded for their effort at 12:10, when captain Patrick Shantz blasted a slap shot from the point and Philip Teri picked up the rebound. Tyler Kuntz picked up the second assist.
It was now 5-5 in what was turning out to be a rather epic narrative. Both teams, having fought through some difficult periods, had reversed a deficit. Both squads skated hard and quickly knowing full well that the win was still up for grabs. But the Dominators stood tallest and for the Kings the illusion of a comeback quickly evaporated. At 19:06, McFarlane completed his hat-trick, converting on a Gorz pass to give his team the thin one-goal lead.
Caught flat footed on the edge of Guelph’s blue line, Elmira’s defencemen had been unable to thwart the Dominators’ counterattack.
The Kings pulled their goalie to add the extra attacker, but the optimistic effort was short-lived. Teri, to the frustration of the home side, was dealt a penalty for checking from behind. With their man-advantage suddenly neutralized, the Kings threw all their remaining artillery against the Dominators. But it was too little too late: the Dominators returned to Guelph loaded with an extra pair of points, and closer to zeroing in on Elmira’s seventh place standing.
Having come off a busy schedule last week – facing three games in five days – the Kings were back into the thick of things with four games in six nights this week. The Kings kicked off the action with a 4-3 win in Welland Tuesday and a 7-4 win against Kitchener on Wednesday before heading to Stratford for a Friday night match. The Kings are back in town tomorrow (Sunday) to take on their archrival Cambridge Winter Hawks.
The busy schedule could be a good thing if the Kings hit their stride early on.
“I look at is as nothing but a positive because if you get off to a poor start in those games, the best thing to do is get right back at it the next night. We’re coming off a disappointing effort Sunday – the good thing is we get to get right back at it tonight,” said Haddaway before Tuesday’s game.
“And if you can have some success, then you try to keep it going, obviously.”