Geoff Haddaway had a gut feeling the Cherrey Cup series would end at six games.
The Elmira Sugar Kings proved their head coach right in game-six against Listowel, defeating the Cyclones 3-2 on Apr. 8 to claim the Midwestern Conference crown.
With his team up three games to two, Haddaway said he knew the series wouldn’t go to game seven.
“I had a really strong sense that it was going to be Friday night,” said Haddaway.
The coach can’t explain the gut feeling, especially because the team had not won a game previously in Listowel, but his prediction seemed true beginning with the first goal.
“I think most of our guys felt that and certainly getting off to a great start with Lukas (Baleshta) scoring that first goal was an indication that maybe things were going to go our way,” he said.
That goal came just 48 seconds into the game, an unassisted tally that started the game off with a bang.
The Kings would hold that 1-0 lead until 11:48 when the Cyclones finally put one behind Kings’ netminder Matthew Smith.
“You’re not going to keep a team like Listowel off the board,” Haddaway said, adding both teams performed well during the game.
The second frame opened 1-1 and remained that way until 9:16 when Listowel scored to make it 2-1. But that would be it for the Cyclones, though not for lack of trying: the threw 35 shots at the net during the game, just one less than Elmira’s 36.
Special teams were the deciding factor through the rest of the match, the Kings notching two powerplay goals and killing off their own penalties.
“Our powerplays weren’t really clicking,” said Haddaway of the previous five games in the series. But the Kings’ Brad Kraus found a way to make them click last Friday, scoring powerplay goals at 12:58 assisted by Brady Campbell and Josh Woolley to even out the scoreboard and then again at 14:31, this time with the help of Campbell and Josh MacDonald.
The two goals would bring the team to its winning total, with the uneventful third period seeing no goals and only 6 minutes in penalties of the game’s 38 minute penalty total.
“This is what you set out for at the beginning of your year, is to win your league,” Haddaway said. “We were very fortunate. I don’t think many people thought we were the team that would win the midwest, but we certainly had a group of believers in our room.”
As newly minted Midwestern Conference champs, the Kings now square off against the winner of the two other conferences in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League: the Niagara Falls Canucks (Golden
Horseshoe Conference) and the St. Thomas Stars (Western Ontario Conference). The round-robin format sees each of the teams play each other twice. After opening on the road in Niagara Falls Apr. 15, the Kings are home Wednesday night to take on St. Thomas. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.