After losing 9-5 in their own barn, the Elmira Sugar Kings had something to prove and they did it last Sunday, routing the Guelph Hurricanes 9-3.
The Kings put on a full 60-minute show for the crowd of 900, scoring their first goal 28 seconds in and their last goal with 2.4 seconds remaining. With the win, Elmira collected two points and edged up in the standings ahead of the Stratford Cullitons, who lost to Cambridge Feb. 12.
The Kings got on the board before some fans even found their seats, when Riley Sonnenburg notched the first goal of the game on a feed from Tyson LeBlanc and Ryan Johnston. At 1:02, Michael Therrien (Brad Kraus) scored four seconds into the power play to put the Kings up 2-0.
Josh Woolley (Jon Jutzi) made it 3-0 before the game was seven minutes old, and Lukas Baleshta deked Guelph keeper Drew Pegrum to add a fourth goal at 12:23.
Trying to reverse the momentum, Guelph pulled Pegrum and sent in Chris MacDougall between the pipes. The Hurricanes finally made their mark on the scoreboard at 14:04 with a power play goal by Mike Iacocca.
With two minutes left in the period, Jutzi scored a power play goal of his own, blasting in a slapshot from the faceoff circle. The first period ended with the Kings up 5-1.
The Kings started the second period just as strong as the first, with LeBlanc notching a goal three minutes in. Three minutes later, Sonnenburg scored his second of the game to make it 7-1 for Elmira.
At 13:13, Guelph’s Martin Kudla was awarded a penalty shot and put it away, giving the Hurricanes two.
The third period opened with a power play goal by Guelph two minutes in. But the Kings weren’t allowing any comeback victories; with six minutes to go, Baleshta deflected a slapshot from the blueline to put another power play goal in the back of Guelph’s net.
A few fans started to file out as the clock counted down the final seconds, but the Kings weren’t quite finished yet; with 2.4 seconds left, Shane Smith notched one more power play goal, making the final score 9-3.
Head coach Geoff Haddaway said the team was confident, after a good week of practice, they could put the loss to Guelph behind them.
“I really sensed the hurt was on a different level. I challenged the leadership in our room to take control, to make sure things like that didn’t happen again.”
“I think it got us in the right perspective,” said captain Jeff Zippel, “that we were good enough to play the way we did [tonight].”
The Kings came out fast and competed hard right from the opening faceoff, and that energy was rewarded with several quick goals.
“There’s a message too – while we have some set plays, especially on the power play, getting pucks to the net is never a bad thing,” Haddaway said.
The Kings are in the home stretch now, with four more games before the end of the season. Those games will decide who they face in the first round, as Stratford, Elmira, Cambridge and Listowel are jockeying for position in the middle of the pack.
Regardless of who they face, the Kings’ captain is confident the team will be able to handle the opposition.
“I think if we keep playing the way we played tonight, we’ll be fine going into the playoffs,” Zippel said.
The Kings travel to Listowel on Friday and Brantford on Saturday before hosting Stratford on Sunday. Game time is 7 p.m.