The Elmira Sugar Kings and the London Nationals are both a win away from advancing to the Sutherland Cup finals.

The Sugar Kings hold a 3-1 lead over the three-time defending Sutherland Cup champion Caledonia Corvairs and the Nationals also own a 3-1 series lead over the Listowel Cyclones.

London and Listowel kicked off the Sutherland Cup semi-finals on Friday, April 14 with an exciting 4-3 overtime win for the visiting Nationals in front of 796 fans at the Listowel Arena.

Brandon Glover (8) was the overtime hero late in the first extra period at 16:57 when he jammed in a loose puck off a scramble in front of Cyclone goaltender Brock Baier.  Former Strathroy Rocket Liam Fordy assisted on the play.

London led 1-0 after one period.  The two teams were tied 2-2 after forty minutes.  Richard Whitaker (4) paced the Nats to the first period lead at 12:24 before second period goals at 3:41 and 14:07 by Ben VanOoteghem (3) and Chayse Herrfort (7) gave the Cyclones a brief 2-1 lead.  National Adam Sinclair (6) scored his first of two goals on the night just 2:15 later to tie the match.

Sinclair’s (7) second of the night, an unassisted effort, at 2:10 of the third period put London back on top but an unlikely source, Danny Skinner (1), tied the game at 3-3 sending the two teams into sudden death overtime.  For Skinner, not only was it his first goal of the post-season, it was also his first point.

Both clubs only had 2 powerplay opportunities, including one each in overtime. Listowel outshot London 39-34.   Baier was tagged with the loss while London keeper Cameron Zanussi earned the key win stealing home ice advantage for the Nationals.

The following night at the Western Fair in London in front of 890 fans the Cyclones took home ice back as Baier blanked the Nationals 3-0.

After surviving a 14-6 shot on goal barrage by the Nats in the scoreless opening period, Listowel come out with a much better effort in the second period outshooting London 13-7 and taking a 1-0 lead at 16:52.  VanOoteghem (4) banged home the third rebound in front of Zanussi in the London goal.  It would stand up to be the game winner.

Herrfort (8) capitalized from a bad turnover in front of the London goal at 1:12 of the third period for the vital insurance marker.  Jamie Huber (8) added an empty net marker at 18:46 with Zanussi on the bench for the extra attacker.  London outshot Listowel 15-9 in the third period and 36-28 over sixty minutes.

Strong penalty killing and goaltending continues as both teams are still looking for their first powerplay goal of the series.  Listowel went 0 for 3; London was 0 for 5.  The shutout was Baier’s third of the post-season.

On Sunday, April 16 wild card Elmira shocked three-time defending champion Caledonia by taking a 2-0 series lead with a tight 1-0 shutout at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena in Elmira.  Jonathan Reinhart earned the shutout, his first of the post-season.

With Corvairs Quentin Maksimovich in the penalty box for a tripping call, Elmira’s Quinten Bruce (1) buried a one-timer from the high slot on a feed from Andrew McIntyre at 6:35 of the third period.  The Corvairs thought they had tied the game in the final two minutes of regulation play but their goal was waved off for a high stick.

The Corvairs outshot the Sugar Kings 36-32, including a 17-9 advantage in the third period as Baier and his teammates held on for the win.  Both clubs had 5 powerplay opportunities in front of 815 delighted Elmira fans.

The second period was highlighted by a heavyweight scrap between Caledonia’s Mike Baird and Elmira’s Brock Phillips.  Baird, a 6’ 3”, 176-pound Cayuga native and former second round pick of North Bay who spent 3 years in the OHL racking up penalty minutes had little problem with 6’ 5”, 210-pound Fergus native Phillips, who was a fifth rounder of Guelph and spent two years in the OHL, mostly in the penalty box.

On Monday, April 17 in Listowel the Nationals took a 2-1 series lead with a decisive 4-1 win in front of 561 fans.  The two clubs were tied 1-1 after one period and after playing through a scoreless middle frame a pair of London goals in the last half of the third period broke open the game until an empty net tally by Glover (10) secured the win with 29 seconds remaining.  Shots favoured London 33-28.  Listowel had 5 powerplay chances; London had 3.

The Cyclones opening the scoring at 15:04 when defenseman Alec Tiley’s (1) shot from the top of the faceoff circle eluded Zanussi off a Listowel faceoff win.  London defenseman Jaimen Allison’s (1) seeing-eye wrist shot from the point through traffic slipped past Baier at 19:17 to tie the game at 1-1.

The scoreless second period was punctuated by 13 penalties and 58 penalty minutes.  There were only 3 minor penalties in the first and third periods combined.

Glover (9) scored the game winner at 12:44 on a beautifully orchestrated tic-tac-toe play quickly off a faceoff win in the Cyclone defensive zone with Austin Kemp and Brenden Trottier.  At 15:48 Nother walked out from the sideboards and ripped a laser past Baier’s trapper into the top corner giving London the vital insurance marker.

On Tuesday, April 18 in Caledonia the Corvairs got back in the series with a 3-0 win over Elmira to cut the Sugar Kings series lead to 2-1.  It was a solid performance from the defending champs scoring once in every period and only allowing Elmira 19 shots on goal, including a 10-4 advantage in the third period.  Final shots were 36-19.

Elmira was effective in keeping Caledonia’s big guns off the score sheet.  Caledonia’s top seven scorers were held at bay.  Zachary Core (3) opening the scoring at 13:11 of the first period when his left point screened shot found the far side of the net past Sugar King keeper Reinhart’s outstretched glove.  Defenseman Griffin Roubos (3) made it 2-0 at 12:57 of the second period when he slipped in behind cover on a powerplay and potted a rebound.  Brandon Lindberg (2) converted a cross-crease pass at 5:50 of the third period to complete the scoring.

Chenard earned the win in goal.  Both clubs had five powerplay chances in front of 482 fans.

On Wednesday, April 19 at the Western Fair, London blanked Listowel 2-0 to take a 3-1 series lead in front of 786 fans.  The two clubs skated through a scoreless and frantic opening period.  The Cyclones thought they had opened the scoring on a Brady Anderson breakaway goal but the officials ruled that Zanussi had unintentionally dislodged the net prior to the puck crossing the line.  Instead, it was the Nationals who took a 1-0 lead at 10:09 of the third period when Trottier (4) batted the puck out of midair behind Baier on the backhand on a rush with Glover and Kemp.  Carson Brookshaw (6) added an empty net goal with 90 seconds remaining to secure the win.  It was Zanussi’s fourth shutout.

A key to the London win was their great defensive team play.  They outshot Listowel 31-18 allowing the Cyclones just 4 shots on goal in the second period and 5 in the third.  Each club only had one powerplay opportunity.  Despite London and Listowel entering the series with the first and third best powerplays in the GOJHL, neither team has clicked with the man advantage thus far in the series.

On the same night, Elmira pushed Caledonia to the brink with a 4-3 come-from-behind win in Elmira in front of 620 fans.  A four-point night from Klayton Hoelscher, including three goals and a solid goaltending display from Reinhart led to the Sugar King victory.

The Corvairs outshot the Sugar Kings 47-36.  Special teams were a determining factor in the outcome as Elmira converted 2 of 7 chances while Caledonia was unsuccessful on 4 chances.

Hoelscher (6) opened the scoring at 10:02 of the first period for Elmira but a pair of goals from Lindberg (3, 4) at 10:25 and 13:29 quickly gave the Corvairs the lead heading into the first intermission.

Elmira’s powerplay then went to work, first tying the game with a shot from the point by Hoelscher (7) at 5:52 and then taking the lead with a Jake Brown (13) backdoor goal on a 5-on-3 at 13:32.  Brown won the Sutherland Cup the previous three years with Caledonia.  Hoelscher (8) completed his hat trick at 16:50 to put the Sugar Kings up 4-2 before Ryan Punkari (2) got one back for the Corvairs at 17:47.

The two teams played through a scoreless third period with Reinhart coming up with 18 big stops to preserve the win.

Both London and Elmira will have an opportunity to close out their series on Friday, April 21.

photo – Mike Hensen/London Free Press




David Honsberger

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