Riding a seven-game win streak, the Elmira Sugar Kings came back to Earth with a thud last weekend, falling 4-3 to the Cambridge Winter Hawks Jan. 15 and losing 6-2 at home to Guelph the following day.
The Kings found themselves playing catch-up from the first period against the Winter Hawks, and that set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Head coach Geoff Haddaway said the team fell short in Saturday’s game, running out of time to tie it up.
“You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you feel like, ‘gee, if we’d played for five more minutes we would have won the hockey game,’” he said. “The game’s 60 minutes long and if you’re prepared to play right off the bat and you’re prepared to play for 60 minutes, you’ll generally get the results you want. We didn’t play 60 minutes and we paid the price.”
Elmira scored the first goal of the game, finding the back of the net just 3:33 in. Cambridge scored consistently throughout the rest of the first, with goals coming at six, 11 and 16 minutes of play time.
The Kings started the second period down 3-1. Cambridge rounded out its scoring at 6:41 of the second, putting Elmira down by three.
“We scored to take an early lead and then we just sat back for a period, period and a half and then we found ourselves down 4-1,” said Haddaway. “And that’s a tough place to play from in the best of games.”
Play picked up for the Kings with just over three minutes left in the period, resulting in a second goal, scored on a power play by Josh Woolley with assists from Brady Campbell and Wade Pfeffer. The middle frame closed with the score 4-2.
The third period was a scoreless affair until, with just under a minute left in play, Lukas Baleshta, assisted by Josh Woolley and Pfeffer, scored the final goal of the game.
“I’d like to leave every single game and point out something we did well, and for us to be able to go on the road and come back – at 4-1, most people would say the game’s over, well we don’t play that way. We don’t quit.”
Sunday Elmira was on home ice, but that didn’t prevent Guelph from handing them their hats.
Guelph scored the first goal mid-way through the first period. Elmira countered at 11:56 with a goal by Cory Genovese assisted by Jarred Parent. Guelph scored two more goals, both on a powerplay, to put them up 3-1 going into the first intermission.
Elmira couldn’t find the net in the second, but Guelph did, scoring at just over two minutes into the period and again with a powerplay marker at 14:21, making it 5-1 after 40 minutes.
“The fact that Guelph scored three powerplay goals … you can’t give a skilled team more opportunities to score. They took advantage of their power plays and we couldn’t, so that’s the difference in the game right there,” Haddaway said.
The score remained unchanged until seven minutes into the third when Guelph added one more to their total.
With just under two minutes left in the game, an enthusiastic Elmira crowd made some noise as Nic Maceachern, assisted by Shane Smith and Woolley, scored one to make the final tally 6-2.
“This group never, ever quits, regardless of the score. Even on Sunday, we didn’t have a great effort, but we didn’t quit, we played hard right until the end,” said Haddaway.
Going into the 40th anniversary game this weekend, the coach plans to keep the team focused on being prepared and executing strategy.
“I was told my first year, the Sugar Kings never, ever quit. Never. There were lean years along the way when they were losing big scores and it didn’t matter, you just keep going,” he said. “That’s the mentality and you either adopt that mentality and become a part of it, become a part of that tradition and that culture or else there’s no room for you in Elmira.”
The King’s 40th anniversary weekend will see the team on home ice against Brantford tomorrow (Sunday). Game time is 2 p.m.