It was no goaltenders’ battle, but the Sugar Kings will take the win, having downed the Wheatfield Jr. Blades 10-8 at home Sept. 27. Elmira’s Riley Sonnenburg, who potted three, and Ryan Johnston, who picked up six points (2-4), had plenty of reasons to smile, however.
The shots were more lopsided in favour of Elmira, 47-23, but it wasn’t a night to remember for any of the netminders who saw action in the inter-conference game.
Off to a slow start, the Kings let Wheatfield score three goals in the first period, showing no indication of the fast and furious goal scoring yet to come. Coach Geoff Haddaway attributed the weak first period to a few key mistakes made by the team, allowing the Jr. Blades to capitalize on opportunities.
“It just seemed like every time we made a mistake in the first period, the puck was in the back of our net,” he noted, adding that although the Kings were down by a quick three points, his was the better team, but one that had too many moments of disorganization.
The second period quickly changed the pace of the game, as Sonnenburg scored a power play goal shortly after the one-minute mark, assisted by Ryan Johnston and Jon Jutzi. Then came a quick reply from Wheatfield’s Brian Inman, scoring against the Kings not 50 seconds later to make it 4-1.
The action continued with Elmira’s Tyler Kuntz scoring a third goal in two minutes assisted by Tyson LeBlanc and Michael Therrien, bringing the score to 4-2. Later in the period, Jutzi who played an exceptionally strong game, both offensively and defensively, netted another goal for the Kings, assisted by Johnston and LeBlanc. Johnston quickly followed Jutzi’s lead, scoring his own power play goal, with helpers from Lukas Baleshta and Nic MacEachern.
Wheatfield’s Kyle Kozlowski managed to stop the Kings’ scoring streak momentarily, netting a goal quickly followed by a second goal in two minutes by the Blades’ Chris Fabozzi. Quickly regaining their footing, the Kings managed to score another power play goal – there were five for 11 on the night – just before the buzzer ended the second period. Sonnenburg picked that one up, with assists from Johnston and Paul Thompson.
Although happy to bank the two points, Haddaway said his players will need to tighten up their game and make it impossible for a team to score so many points against them.
“I know [goalie] Brandon Gorecki would be the first to tell you that there were a couple of goals that he should have had, but at the same time we just made some major errors in front of him and hung him out to dry.”
Sonneburg (assisted by Andrew Schacht and Brennon Pearce) got the third frame rolling by completing his hat-trick. Following suit shortly after was LeBlanc, putting one in with the help of Therrien and Kody Ellis.
Johnston continued on his roll, scoring his second on a feed from Lukas Baleshta and Zach Solomon.
Scrambling to regain some ground after these quick goals against, Wheatfield’s Joel Wetmore plowed down the ice to get one for the visitors. That comeback was quickly dashed when Therrien turned the puck around on the Blades and scored, assisted by LeBlanc and Kuntz. One last-ditch effort by Wheatfield’s brought Kyle Kozlowski a shorthanded goal, before Therrien came back to score his second goal of the night, assisted by Johnston and Kuntz, ensuring the King’s victory.
The audience of 425 hardly stayed in their seats for any of the game, as goals were being scored in rapid succession, but Haddaway said this type of playing won’t be sustainable as the season continues.
“We said to the guys after the game you know it’s fun to win games like that in September, but that kind of hockey won’t win in March when playoffs come around.”
Noting that he doesn’t want to read too much into just one game, the coach said the King’s will have to step up their defensive game if they hope to remain competitive. He is however, encouraged by the team’s ability to come back and succeed after such a slow start to the game.
“A come-from-behind victory like that one is huge. We came back from being three goals behind a couple of different times, so that is significant.”
“We probably saw the very best and worst of Junior hockey, all wrapped into one game,” he quipped.
The Kings play next at the Woolwich Memorial Centre tomorrow (Sunday) at 7 p.m.