A pair of road wins to close out 2017 paced the Elmira Sugar Kings to third place in the Midwestern Conference.
The victories – 3-1 over Listowel December 22 and 3-2 in Waterloo the following night – put the team in a festive spirit heading into the Christmas break.
The first came against the Cyclones on the road in Listowel, where the visitors allowed the conference’s top team just one power-play goal. That opened the scoring, but the Kings replied before the period ended – Ethan Wiseman, from Tyler McBay and Spencer Comelli – to knot things up at 1-1 after 20 minutes.
The visitors took the lead for good just 2:19 into the middle frame on another goal from Wiseman, this time assisted by Harrison Toms and McBay.
Kurtis Goodwin rounded out the 3-1 win with an insurance marker at 12:53 of the third, assisted by Zack Cameron and older brother Jeremey Goodwin.
The loss was just the fifth of the season for the Cyclones (28-5), while the Kings (19-16) climbed a bit farther past the .500 mark.
With the team slowly creeping back up in the conference standings, the second of two big wins for the team came on the road in Waterloo. The Kings had won both previous games going into the match.
Ryan Takamatsu scored at 5:49 into the first from Niki Molson and Mason McMahon. However, Waterloo tied it back up early in the second, before Elmira’s Ethan Skinner (Wiseman, Jeremey Goodwin) scored on the power play at 10:19 to put the visitors back in front going into the second intermission.
The third period saw Jeremey Goodwin make it 3-1 from little brother Kurtis and Braydon Munn at 13:07. Before they could call it a day, however, Waterloo got one more with a minute left. The late push wasn’t enough to change the outcome.
“The team played 60 minutes. We stuck to the game plan and the guys played with lots of energy,” said head coach Trent Brown of the win. “Lots of players shone. Kurtis Goodwin was great. Braydon Munn played a lot and very well for us. [Netminder] Tyler Mazzocato was fantastic and played a very simple and effective road game in Waterloo.”
Following the wins, the Kings enjoyed a two-week break. That can either help or hinder the recent progress, suggested Brown, noting the team is eager to get back on the ice.
“We were playing better right before the break,” he said. “The break can do a few things for your team: either a good reset time to refocus and get healthy before playoffs, or it can hinder the progress you’re making. We challenged the players to take care of themselves and remain focused on not only the progress we have made but also what our end goal is.”
With about a third of the season to go, the Kings are in a good position to climb even further up the standings.
That climb starts Saturday night in Elmira when the team faces a rematch with the Siskins, whose record of 18-12-0-2 gives them the same 38 points as the Kings. These games will go a long way to determining how the season plays out, said Brown.
“We have four more games versus Waterloo before the end of the season. That’s a total of eight head-to-head points in the battle for 3rd place. We don’t want to limit ourselves to third but those are game we need to win,” said Brown.
With the absence of a team in Cambridge this year, the Kings will make the playoffs regardless. With that, the team hopes to make it to the Cherrey Cup finals before thinking about defending their Sutherland Cup title.
Following Saturday’s match against Waterloo (game time is 7:30 at the WMC), the Kings welcome the Brantford 99ers (9-20-0-2) Sunday night at 7 p.m.