CHRISTOPHER MILLS, For the Independent
After some highly competitive games this season, the Stratford Cullitons finally bested the Elmira Sugar Kings.
Elmira took the first three games in the season series, all one-goal affairs, but was unable to fend off the visiting Cullitons on Sunday afternoon. Despite a strong effort by the home team, Stratford was able to execute when it mattered en route to a 4-1 victory.
The game looked as though it would be headed to the third period tied 1-1, but Trevor Sauder netted two goals for Stratford in the final 3 minutes of the second period, including a short-handed goal that gave the visitors a 3-1 lead. Shane O’Brien put the game away with three minutes remaining, netting his second power play goal of the game.
The Sugar Kings had their opportunities, including a 5-on-3 power play in the final period, but couldn’t capitalize. Stratford goaltender Nick Caldwell was strong, stopping 40 of 41 shots, but Elmira skipper Dean DeSilva said his team needs to do a better job of grabbing rebounds and putting pressure on opposing netminders, especially on the power play.
“We're still trying to be too fancy on the outside rather than manufacturing goals down low by keeping it simple,” he said. “We want to put pucks on net and battle for rebounds. Right now we're still trying to score from the outside or get too fancy. That was disappointing as we've talked about it and worked on it quite a bit lately. The power play was having some success the last few games so I'm sure this will be a lesson to learn from.”
DeSilva praised his team’s effort and gave credit to a hard-working Stratford team, but said they need to maintain focus and avoid critical mistakes.
“For the most part I was happy with our work ethic Sunday. Stratford is a solid team regardless of where they are in the standings and it's always a hard-fought game when we play each other,” he said. “I was pleased with the effort from our players but there were some mental lapses throughout the game that were frustrating to see at this time of year. Those mental lapses seemed to end up in the back of the net."
DeSilva said the team needs to continue to battle to overcome injuries and adversity, and practice this week will focus on players simplifying things and playing to their strengths.
Steven Jakiela scored Elmira’s lone goal of the afternoon in the second period, and Liam Maaskant had two assists for Stratford.
Elmira visits Caledonia for their next game on Friday night.