After ending the regular season on a sour note and dropping their opening playoff game, the Elmira Sugar Kings needed to win Wednesday night and they did so decisively, shutting out the Listowel Cyclones 4-0.
The Kings clamped down on Listowel’s offence, allowing only 22 shots while firing 43 of their own. They also locked out the Cyclones on the power play, denying the visitors any goals on seven opportunities.
Head coach Geoff Haddaway praised an “outstanding effort” from his players, noting the win put them back on track after a 6-3 loss in Listowel on Tuesday.
“[The Cyclones] did what they were supposed to do the other night, and it was important that we come back to our barn and do what we’re supposed to do.”
On Tuesday, the Cyclones went ahead by two with a pair of goals early in the first period. Listowel added a third goal on the power play before the Kings got on the board late in the second frame with a power play goal of their own from Zach Salomon.
The Kings tied things up in the third period with goals from Brad Kraus and Riley Sonnenburg, but Listowel pressed back and reclaimed the lead with four minutes remaining. A minute later, they added an insurance goal and finally slid the puck into the empty net to cap the 6-3 win.
Back at home Wednesday, the playoff atmosphere was evident: the pace was faster, the hits were harder, and every play carried a little extra intensity.
The Kings quickly set the pace, scoring the first goal of the game four minutes in. Michael Therrien intercepted the puck and fed it to Sonnenburg, who pounded it into the net.
The Kings held on to that lead through the first period and added to it seven minutes into the second. Josh Woolley broke down the ice, trying for a shorthanded goal, and was taken down by a Listowel player, who was called for interference. Woolley was awarded a penalty shot, which he ripped past Listowel keeper James Prigione.
The Kings made it 3-0 at 12:29. Jon Jutzi fired a shot from the point, which bounced off Prigione’s pads. Woolley fired it back in again, and Kraus put that rebound away.
Brennon Pearce thought he had the Kings’ fourth goal midway through the third, but it was called back. Five minutes later, he again finagled the puck in the side of the net, and that one counted.
Elmira keeper Brandon Gorecki faced his toughest test in the second period, when the team killed off four penalties, and came up with some big saves to maintain the shutout. Throughout the game, the Kings did a solid job of shutting down Listowel’s shooting lanes and blocking shots. Gorecki faced only six shots in the first period and four in the final frame. On one power play, the Kings fired more shots on goal shorthanded than the Cyclones did with the man advantage.
The Kings were back in action Friday night in Listowel before returning home for Game 4 on Sunday. The Kings are hoping for a large – and loud – home crowd in the Dan Snyder Arena.
“If we could pack this place on Sunday, that would be great,” Haddaway said.
Game time Sunday is 7 p.m.