With several of their key players recovering from injuries, the Sugar Kings continued to struggle last weekend, losing a pair of games by narrow margins. On January 18, the Elmira team fell to the Caledonia Corvairs, 4-3, and on Sunday, they lost to the Cambridge Winter Hawks, 3-2.
While top scorer Brady Campbell recovered from a cheek injury, and players Justin Cooke and James Mildon were also out of action, the Kings had to make due with an abridged lineup. Head coach Dean DeSilva said the team has struggled to fill the gaps.
“We’ve got a band-aid and a bubblegum lineup together, so our players battled hard and we were within one shot of tying the game up,” said DeSilva after Sunday’s game.
Last weekend’s losses come on top of three previous defeats, but head coach Dean DeSilva called the streak a temporary setback.
“All we can do is make it all very, very simple, and keep shooting pucks on net,” said DeSilva. “We can’t cheat, we’ve got to take a lot more pride in some of our play away from the puck, but it’s tough when players are playing in situations they’re not used to playing.
“But they’ll learn from it, and we’re going to be better in the playoffs because of it, because these guys will know what it’s like.”
Last Friday’s game in Caledonia started poorly for the Kings, with the Corvairs scoring three goals in the first period, at 3:34, 12:23 and 16:57. The Corvairs then added a fourth goal at 4:43 in the second, extending their lead to a daunting 4-0.
But at 10:33, the Kings showed signs of life, with Jake Weidner landing the first goal. In the third period, Rob Kohli scored at 6:45 and Brandon Stewart sank the puck at 14:17. It wasn’t enough to erase the Corvairs’ lead, but the Kings managed to narrow the gap to 4-3.
“I thought we played well enough to get a point in Caledonia Friday night, but we were down very early in the game,” said DeSilva. “We hit four goal posts. But the guys stuck with it, and this adversity is going to make us better.”
On Sunday’s home game, Elmira scored the first goal, with Mitch Wright assisted by Craig Johnson and Patrick McKelvie at 2:53. But Cambridge dominated the rest of the first period, with goals at 7:33 and 13:23. Cambridge made it 3-1 in the second period, landing the period’s only goal at 9:26.
Elmira managed a small bounce back in the third period, with Zac Coulter scoring at 3:38, but despite a hard-fought late-rally (during which the Kings’ goalie was pulled for the last 30 seconds), Elmira was unable to overcome Cambridge’s early lead.
“We dug ourselves into a hole being down early in the game, but full credit to our guys for battling back,” said DeSilva. “The good thing about it is, we’re not getting blown out. We may be down early, but we’re in every game, and it’s one shot away, and that’s going to turn around for us.
“I can’t say anything right at this point to make them feel any better, but we will be better when the playoffs come along.”
At a post-game press conference announcing team member Brady Campbell’s scholarship with the University of Maine, Campbell’s father Brad Campbell addressed the team’s recent track record. “Keep it up, boys – this is going to be a good year. You’re going through a little adversity now, but it’ll right.”
After facing Guelph on Thursday, the Kings return to the Woolwich Community Centre to face the Waterloo Siskins on Sunday afternoon. Game time is 2 p.m.