Home ice advantage with a whopping 1,500 fans wasn’t enough to secure a game-seven win for the Elmira Sugar Kings, as they fell 3-1 to the LaSalle Vipers on April 19, eliminating them from a Sutherland Cup run.
Wildcard LaSalle was ready right out of the gate, notching two goals in the first four minutes, a deficit Elmira couldn’t recover from. Goal scorers were Daniel Beaudoin (Brendan Harrogate, Nathan Savage) and Tyler Russell (Manny Silverio, Korey Morgan).
“I thought the first seven to eight minutes we didn’t play our best hockey, thus we had two quick goals scored on us and put us down in a hole nobody wants to be early on in a game seven,” head coach Jeff Flanagan said. “After that we played a lot better. Our effort was a lot better, our defence was a lot better. We created a number of scoring chances; unfortunately we weren’t able to put home enough goals to get the job done. I think as a whole we played okay but obviously not well enough to win.”
Connor Hall fired one past LaSalle goalie Paolo Battisti eight minutes into the second, assisted by Brendan Schneider, but the scoreboard wouldn’t change again for the Kings. Despite numerous rushes in front of the net they weren’t able to put the puck past Battisti, who stopped 37 shots.
With 30 seconds left in the game and an empty Elmira net, Beaudoin sealed the deal. The loss is surprising for those who saw the Kings defeat the Vipers 7-2 in the first two games. LaSalle won the following games 7-4 and 4-3, with both teams winning one more to take them to game seven.
“We played fairly well in the first two games but I think we created some bad habits,” Flanagan said. “When LaSalle pushed back our bad habits really showed and gave them the opportunity to get back in the series.”
He says they played extremely well with 15 games left in the season right through the Cherrey Cup and then after the Cherrey Cup it was difficult to get that intensity of play back. He thinks that’s what hurt them in the end.
LaSalle faced last year’s Sutherland Cup champions, the Caledonia Corvairs, starting on Wednesday in the seven-game series, which will run to May 5 if necessary. Caledonia defeated the Leamington Flyers in five games to advance.
The Kings had their player exit meetings on Wednesday where they set plans for the summer and discussed options for next year. Their spring prospect camp runs May 16-17 and after that recruiting is in full swing.
“Our fan support was tremendous through the playoffs,” Flanagan said. “Our players really appreciated it. For the young players it was really an eye opener to see what kind of support there is for them in the community. I think it speaks to the players, the kind of people they are and what sort of qualities they have. It’s exciting hockey from September right through.”