The Elmira Sugar Kings used a potent and balanced attack to claim a victory in each of their past three games. They defeated the Listowel Cyclones 8-4 on the road back on Jan. 27, beat up on the Stratford Cullitons 6-2 at home last Sunday night, and edged the Kitchener Dutchmen also by a score of 6-2 on Tuesday night at Kinsmen Arena. Head coach Dean DeSilva was pleased with the team’s performance as they head towards the playoffs.
“I was real happy over the weekend, real happy with how we played Friday night in Listowel and Sunday against Stratford,” said DeSilva. “That’s right from goaltending, defence, everybody. I can’t find fault in anybody’s game.”
The goals came in bunches all night against Listowel as Elmira scored two in the first, three in the second, and three more in the third en route to the win. Riley Sonnenburg led the way with a hat trick and an assist, while Brett Priestap also added four points on a goal and three assists.
Justis Husak was strong in goal, making 38 saves for his eighth win of the year.
Sunday night at home against the Cullitons the Kings fell behind early but managed to rally to snap the visitor’s four-game winning streak.
Stratford took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot 23-15 by the Kings, and Brad McClure extended that lead to 2-0 on the powerplay just 1:54 into the second.
The Kings, however, pushed back with four unanswered goals and headed to the dressing room up 4-2 at the end of 40 minutes.
“I don’t think there was anything that sparked us,” said DeSilva of the comeback. “There is a sense of confidence and a sense of belief with the players and the team. There was no panic, and we talked about that before the game.”
Elmira’s Michael Hasson got the ball rolling less than two minutes after Stratford made it 2-0 when he crossed the Cullitons blueline and unleashed a quick wrist shot through a screen at the top of the faceoff circle, beating Stratford’s Jesse Raymond for his 14th of the year. Brett Catto and Mitch Dunning picked up the assists.
The floodgates opened a few moments later when Brady Campbell undressed Raymond on a breakaway when he faked backhand and managed to pull the puck back to his forehand and tuck it past the sprawling keeper to knot the game 2-2 at 11:20 of the period. Catto and Will Cook collected the assists.
Andrew Smith gave the home team the lead for good just two minutes later when he took a cross-ice pass from Sonnenburg and picked the top corner with a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot to make it 3-2 at 13:25. Priestap had the other assist on the goal.
Brad Kraus finished the scoring in the period on the powerplay at 17:35 after defenceman Colton Wolfe-Sabo carried the puck deep in Stratford territory and behind the icing line before passing it out front, where Kraus was waiting near the lip of the crease to bang home his 21st of the year.
In the third the Kings continued to pressure the Cullitons and gave them no quarter in their own zone. Hasson tallied a shorthanded goal just 1:47 into the third after Lukas Baleshta stripped the Stratford defender of the puck near the Culliton blue line and made a nice cross-ice feed to Hasson for his second of the night, and Sonnenburg finished off the scoring at 14:45 on the powerplay from Smith and Cass Frey.
Nick Horrigan finished with 26 saves to collect the win.
“We felt very, very confident with what we were doing and we thought we could wear them down even though we were down by two goals at one point,” said DeSilva of their overall game plan against Stratford.
On Tuesday night the Kings travelled to Kitchener for a game against the 8-28-7 Dutchmen and didn’t let up, handing them their eighth straight loss with a 6-2 win. Will Cook led the offence with two goals, and Scott Nagy and Sonnenburg had a pair of assists in the win.
Horrigan collected the win by making 25 saves.
DeSilva said that the players have turned the corner from their struggles earlier in the season and that every player knows their role when they step onto the ice. That being said, he also credits the team’s four solid lines for the well-rounded offence on display during the Kings recent winning streak.
“If we expect one line to do the scoring, and it’s not their night, they focus on the defensive side of the puck and the other three lines can pick up the scoring.”
He also said they would be treating the remaining eight games on the schedule as a tune-up for the playoffs, treating every game like it was a part of a playoff series.
“Over seven games we’re going to be tough to beat, and we’re talking about the playoffs being all about momentum, so we can’t give teams any opportunity.”
The Kings play at home against Guelph tomorrow (Sunday) in an afternoon tilt, with puck drop at 2 p.m. then head to Stratford next Friday night for a rematch against the Cullitons starting at 7:30 p.m.