Winning 4-2 at home against the Listowel Cyclones Dec. 21 was a great way for the Kings to end the year. Yes, adding to the win column is always good, but this one sends the Elmira team into the Christmas break on a high note, and with a positive outlook for 2009.
“Any time you go into a break, that last game is certainly one that you really want to have,” said coach Geoff Haddaway afterwards. “That’s the last thing you leave with, you’re refreshed but now you have that positive … a good two points.”
It’s been a rollercoaster season thus far for the Kings, who’ve both stumbled and shown moments of brilliance against the league’s top teams. Elmira fans witnessed a combination of hard work and skill last week, as the Kings (13-17-3) downed their longtime rivals the Listowel Cyclones (17-11-7) in a game that saw an effort from the entire roster, especially the team’s workhorses.
“I thought it was a 20-man effort,” said Haddaway, noting that a number of injuries to key figures gave other players a chance to step it up.
“You take Shantzy (Patrick Shantz) and Michael Therrien out of our lineup, and guys just rise up,” he said, noting that players such as Jarred Parent and Kyle Blaney took their play up a notch, blocking shots, forechecking with vigour and instilling confidence in their teammates.
After a scoreless first period in which the Kings were outshot 11-6 by the visiting team, the home side finally broke the ice at 1:06 of the second frame: Philip Teri, from Tyler Kuntz, gave the Kings the early lead.
At 9:21, the Kings’ leadings scorer, Brent Freeman, raced into the Listowel end to set up Josh Ranalli, who made it 2-0 for Elmira.
With less than five minutes remaining in the middle period, the Cyclones got on the board when Braedon Rigney converted on a Nick Seiler setup at 15:43 to make it 2-1.
The third period saw some fast-paced, physical hockey as both teams raced to take the win. But it was the Kings who got the advantage when Parent blocked a shot that led to Blaney racing in on the left side of the Listowel zone before throwing the puck in front of the net so that Nic McEachern could smash it in. The Kings were now up 3-1.
The Cyclones, however, were by no means done. They gave the Elmira fans a scare when, with under a minute remaining in the game, Shayne McClure, from Eric McClure and Eric Deckers brought the visitors within one at 3-2.
The ensuing 37 seconds saw the Cyclones attempt to force the overtime, but the Kings were able to weather the storm, eventually adding an empty-netter at 19:50 for a 4-2 final decision.
Though a physical match-up, the game saw two disciplined squads vying smartly and rather stoically for the two points: despite the bitter rivalry, both teams did reasonably well keeping their tempers in check and their players out of the box. Elmira capitalized on one out of seven power plays and was able to shut out Listowel on its five attempts.
There were, no doubt, crucial moments when Elmira players avoided taking retaliatory penalties and that obviously paid off in dividends.
“Listowel’s power play is very good,” said Haddaway.
“They’re really hot right now. Every time you play them, you know how hard they’re going to compete, so if you don’t have that same sort of level then you’re not going to be successful – it was a really good effort on our part.”
When they went on the penalty kill, the Kings were also able to rely on netminder Jake Williams, who stopped all but two of Listowel’s 27 shots.
All in all it was a solid game for a team that is bent on continuing in this vein in the new year.
“Today the level that we competed at is something that we’re going to have to do all the time,” said Haddaway.
“The objectives are just to keep going and to realize that it’s going to take this sort of effort, that kind of level of competitiveness in every single game for us to be successful.”
The Kings next play Jan. 3, when they travel to Cambridge to face the Winter Hawks. The squad returns home the following night to host the Stratford Cullitons. Game time is 7 p.m.