Pat Payton, Gazette Sports editor
Stratford Cullitons were approximately a minute from ending a four-game losing skid Friday night at the Allman Arena. However, a minor penalty to the Cullitons with just 2:05 left in regulation time opened the door for Elmira Sugar Kings. And the Kings took advantage in front of just under 1,300 spectators.
As the clock ticked down to just over a minute remaining, Elmira also pulled goalie Hayden Neuman–giving the visitors a 6-on-4 powerplay and Jake Weidner scored with 59 seconds left on the clock to tie it 2-2. After five minutes of scoreless overtime, the team getting the extra point would be established in a shootout.
The first two Kings shooters–Brady Campbell and Weidner–scored on Nick Caldwell, giving Elmira a huge 2-0 edge. After Ryan Watson had failed to score, Cullitons’ captain Andrew Barton connected to keep Stratford’s hopes alive. Caldwell stopped Kings’ Steven Jakiela, forcing Jared Culliton to score to extend the shootout. However, he failed to beat Neuman, and Elmira skated off with the two points. Cullitons settled for one point for the SO defeat.
Stratford is now 1-4 in games decided in shootouts this season, and 0-for-3 at home. The night started well for Cullitons. Rookie Ryker Killins put the home team ahead in the first period, and Shane O’Brien (with his 16th) made it 2-0 at 3:06 of the second. However, Campbell scored just over a minute later for Elmira, and it stayed that way until the final minute of the third. Campbell, one of the leading point-getters in the GOJHL and the first 30-goal scorer this season, also drew an assist on Weidner’s equalizer.
Cullitons coach Phil Westman was disappointed with the penalty call against his team late in regulation time.
“After everything that went on tonight, and he gives us an interference penalty at that point in the hockey game?” Westman said with a shrug. “That’s just the way our luck seems to be going.”
Stratford (11-12-4) remains in seventh place in the Midwestern Conference standings, while Sugar Kings (16-8-3) moved to within a point of second place with the 3-2 victory. Cullitons are now 1-0-2 in three games against Elmira to date.
Both teams have taken four points from those games. Cullitons will attempt to get back in the wins column tonight when they host fourth-place Listowel Cyclones (16-10-1) at 7:30 p.m. Stratford is 0-3 against Listowel to date.