CHRISTOPHER MILLS, For the Independent
New season, new uniforms, familiar result.
Sporting their new yellow duds, the Sugar Kings took to the ice for their home opener against Kitchener on Saturday and came away with a much-deserved 4-3 victory. Following a hard-fought loss to Stratford in their season-opener on Friday, Elmira was given a good fight by the visiting Dutchmen but ultimately came away with the win thanks to a gritty afternoon effort.
New Elmira captain Cass Frey scored early in the third period to tie the game at 3-3, and Jake Weidner added his second goal of the game with three minutes remaining to seal the deal for the home team in a see-saw affair that saw both teams with multiple leads.
It was a chippy affair that left head coach Dean DeSilva praising his team’s weekend effort, especially the younger players, having played two games in less than 24 hours.
“There is a learning curve and our first-year players will go through that until they’ve played in each rink against each team in our conference,” he said. “Friday night was a learning experience for our younger players, and they learned what it means to battle at this level compared to minor hockey.”
As for Saturday, DeSilva was pleased with the team’s competitiveness, playing a full 60 minutes of hockey.
“We have only had two practices as a team so players are still getting to know one another,” he said. “We’ve only focused on our play without the puck and to see our guys hold Kitchener to a total of 11 shots over the final 40 minutes is a large positive we can take from the game.”
Despite a 1-1 record, the team played a strong two games and DeSilva credited goaltending and veteran leadership as being big reasons for that.
It didn’t take long for one of the leaders DeSilva cited, Cash Seraphim, to get the scoring underway on Saturday as he put Elmira on the board just 1:25 into the game. Kitchener responded with two goals of their own midway through the first period, before Weidner scored his first with five seconds remaining to send the game into the first intermission tied 2-2.
The scoring slowed from there, as both teams battled back and forth in what proved to be a very tough and physical game with strong play on each side. Ty Learn scored the lone goal of the second frame to claim a 3-2 lead for the Dutchmen heading to the third.
DeSilva expressed a lot of excitement about the team moving forward. The team may struggle to score goals as the young players find their footing, but their desire and work ethic is strong, he said.
“We have a hungry group of players who want to compete,” he said. “The younger players coming out of minor hockey need to adapt to the speed, not having as much time to get shots away and learning to battle hard every shift. Once our younger players have gone through the league once they’ll have a better understanding and I’m confident they’ll continue to progress.”
Weidner had three points in Saturday’s game, while Seraphim and Keegan Calder had two points each. Steven Jakiela and Brett Clampitt each had a goal for Kitchener.
Next up, Elmira will host the Guelph Hurricanes on Sunday night at 7pm.