The Elmira Sugar Kings and the London Nationals have begun their best-of-seven Sutherland Cup championship final series. The Sugar Kings had advanced to the finals from a Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Sutherland Cup semi-final win in 6 games over the three-time defending Sutherland Cup champion Caledonia Pro-Fit Corvairs while the Nationals only needed five games to eliminate the Mid-Western champion Listowel Cyclones.

The final series began on Wednesday, April 26 at the Western Fair Community Sports Centre in London.  The visiting Sugar Kings prevailed with a 3-2 win in front of 823 fans thanks to some remarkable goaltending from OHA Junior B Player of the Year Jonathan Reinhart, some lethargic play from the Nationals and a pair of second period Elmira goals 29 seconds apart.  Despite the fact that Elmira was the most penalized team in the Mid-Western Conference this season it was London’s lack of discipline that ultimately led to their downfall.  Elmira clicked on 2 of 5 powerplay chances and while the Nationals were pressing for the tying goal late in the game, they drew 3 minor penalties, including a bench minor, playing the final two minutes of the game two-men short.

The Nats outshot the Sugar Kings in all three periods, 13-8, 11-9 and 16-7 for a 40-24 advantage.  The two clubs were tied 1-1 after the opening period.  Elmira held a 3-1 lead heading into the third.

The Nats opened the scoring at the 15-minute mark of the first period with a Quinn Lenihan (4) wrist shot on the powerplay from the top of the hash marks on a rush.  London would convert 1 of 4 powerplay chances in the game.

Ethan Nother drew an assist on the play moving him into a tie with Listowel’s Holden Lansick for the GOJHL playoff scoring lead.

The Sugar Kings would tie the game with a powerplay goal of their own just 53 seconds later.  Ethan Skinner’s (12) slap shot blast to the top corner from the centre point position beat London goaltender Cameron Zanussi.

Elmira jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead with a pair of second period goals.  The Sugar Kings took the lead with an outstanding play.  Mitch Hoelscher froze Zanussi with a fake shot from the left side, then hit Jeff Jordan (14) with a perfect backdoor pass.  Jake Brown assisted on both Skinner and Jordan’s goals moving him to within one point of the league playoff scoring lead.  Elmira utilizes five forwards on their powerplay.

Just 29 seconds later Elmira went up 3-1 capitalizing on a broken play behind the London goal that saw the puck bounce into the front of the National goal where Ty Biles (2) promptly deposited it into the London goal.  Biles second goal of the post season would stand up to be the game winner.

The Nationals poured on the heat in the third period but they managed to just get the puck behind Reinhart once.  Brandon Glover and Austin Kemp attacked the Sugar King goal on a two-on-one opportunity with Kemp (12) finishing off Glover’s perfect pass at 10:07 to cut the Elmira lead to 3-2.

Pressing for the equalizer late in the game the Nationals ran into penalty trouble.  With 4 minutes left in regulation time Derek DiIorio was nailed for a head checking penalty and a 10-minute misconduct.  When Richard Whitaker exited the penalty box, after serving DiIorio’s minor penalty, he fouled a Sugar King and was ushered from the ice for roughing.  The play took 6 seconds.  The London bench protested strongly to the penalty and was assessed a bench minor putting the Nationals down two players for the last 1:54 of regulation time.  Elmira maintained excellent puck control preventing London from pulling Zanussi for the extra attacker.

David Honsberger

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