Coming off a two-week break, the Elmira Sugar Kings could be forgiven if they showed a little rust against the Owen Sound Greys on Sunday night at the WMC.
They quickly put those worries to rest, however.
Jarred Parent scored just nine seconds into the game to jump-start the Elmira attack as the Kings cruised to a 6-1 victory.
“Yeah, that was nice, a little unexpected but it’s nice,” said head coach Geoff Haddaway. “We knew the night wasn’t going to be that easy, we just happened to score early. It was good, and Jarred is known for coming ready to play so it was nice to see him succeed that way.”
Parent – who lost the opening draw – showed that hustle when he forced the Greys’ defenceman to turn over the puck. Parent skated in all alone and slid the puck through the five-hole of Owen Sound keeper Domingo Torrenueva.
The rest of the period was dominated by the Kings as they held the Greys off the shot-clock until 14:25 of the first – a harmless shot from just past the centre-ice line. The Kings used their speed to cause turnovers all over the ice, and won most of the races for the loose pucks.
The Kings nearly made it 2-0 when Wade Pfeffer let a perfect shot go into the top corner at 7:31, but it was disallowed after Chris Zubac was called for goaltender interference.
Elmira would eventually make it 2-0 at the 19:38 mark of the first on a goal from Brad Kraus. Jordan Benton was initially denied on a wraparound attempt, but Kraus was there to shovel the loose puck into the wide open net. It was his 11th of the season and first since Nov. 21 after missing more than a month with an injury.
“If you can score early and late in the period, in the first shift or two and in the last shift or so, it’s a momentum builder and it’s almost deflating to other teams too,” said Haddaway, adding that the squad really missed Kraus’ contributions when he was out of the lineup.
“He’s a big part of our hockey club. He plays with such a passion and he’s just a really good hockey player and a great kid – we did miss him. I was glad to see him have some success.”
The Kings outshot the Greys 20-3 in the first period alone.
In the second, however, Owen Sound made it a game again with a quick powerplay goal just 3:32 in, but Spencer MacCormack restored the two-goal lead at 15:18 from Lukas Baleshta and Andrew Smith.
In the third the Kings iced it with three goals in less than four minutes: Josh MacDonald at 12:50 from Brady Campbell and Shane Smith; MacDonald again at 14:07 from Campbell and MacCormack; and Kraus with his second of the game at 16:27 from Campbell and Zubac.
Matthew Smith was solid in net making 19 saves for the win.
With Owen Sound buried in the standings with only eight points compared to Elmira’s 46, it could have been easy for the Kings to look beyond this game to their Wednesday match against Waterloo, but Haddaway said that wasn’t the case.
“There was no danger in us looking past them,” he said. “They’ve had some recent success and what I really liked from their team all year is that they’ll compete. They show up to play and keep playing.”
The Kings followed their victory Sunday with a rare Wednesday night tilt against the Waterloo Siskins, a 3-0 win.
Elmira was dominant on home ice, outshooting the visitors 56-32. Although the match was scoreless through the first period, Andrew Smith’s goal at 5:45 of the second, assisted by Baleshta and Clayton Greer, got the Kings on the board.
In the third, Parent (Benton and Josh Woolley) made it 2-0 at 8:41, and that was essentially it. MacCormack rounded out the scoring at 19:24, assisted by Baleshta and Shane Smith.
The Kings are in Guelph tonight (Saturday) to take on the Hurricanes, returning to the Woolwich Memorial
Centre for a 2 p.m. tilt against the Stratford Cullitons.