CHRISTOPHER MILLS, For the Independent
Chalk up another hard-fought victory for the home team.
Hosting the visiting Caledonia Corvairs on Sunday night, the Sugar Kings came away with an impressive 4-1 victory over the Midwestern Conference leaders. The win improved Elmira to 8-3-1 on home ice this season, and moved them past Listowel into fourth place.
The game was a close, chippy affair, but that was quickly erased when the Sugar Kings netted three goals in the final 9 minutes of the game. Brandon Stewart flipped one past Corvairs goalie Justis Husak to put Elmira ahead halfway through the third period, and Zac Coulter and Brady Campbell sealed the deal with goals in the final minute.
After a grueling three games in three nights stretch, Coach Dean Desilva said he wasn’t sure what to expect from his team. They won Friday in Brampton where they didn’t play their best hockey, and then got shut down by Waterloo on Saturday despite a very strong performance.
“After putting so many shots on net Saturday (and losing), I wasn’t sure what our mindset would be,” he said. “However, in speaking with a number of players throughout the day, I knew they were feeling good about Sunday night.”
Desilva said he was proud of the way his team battled and stuck to the game plan, while still staying relaxed and enjoying the game.
“They boys had a very business-like approach to the game, but with a fun element,” he said. “If you can’t have fun playing this game, something’s wrong.”
Elmira fell behind early Sunday night, as Caledonia’s Matt Quilty scored just 1:44 into the game to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The Sugar Kings didn’t give in though, battling back behind a strong performance from goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who stopped 37 of 38 shots on the night.
The game saw a lot of penalties, a gritty affair like most that have marked the Sugar Kings schedule so far this season. The two teams combined for 24 penalties, but Elmira’s special teams were strong, as they netted short-handed and power play goals and killed off all Caledonia penalties.
After the game, Desilva praised his special teams and goaltending, as well as the preparation of his veterans and chemistry of his locker room.
“Our team is extremely close; they’re a great group of young men. But we’re still young and still learning,” he said. “Now our challenge is to get past accepting mediocrity and pushing to play to our full potential. We’re not good enough to not play good enough. We need to bring our best effort each night.”
He said the young players have a tough adjustment because they can’t get away with little mistakes that they could in minor hockey.
“At this level, when you’re playing against players who are older, stronger and more experienced, ‘just good enough’ doesn’t cut it,” he said. “We’re a meat and potatoes group that has to put our work boots and hart hat on and be prepared to work in the trenches if we want to have success.”
Brady Campbell led the scoring on Sunday with two goals and an assist, while Matt Schieck had two assists.
Elmira’s next game is Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Listowel.