SUTHERLAND CUP GAME FIVE

WILD CARD WINS SUTHERLAND CUP

For the first time in Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League history, the wild card entry, the Elmira Sugar Kings, have won the Sutherland Cup.

The Sutherland Cup has symbolised Junior B hockey supremacy in the province of Ontario since 1934.   Elmira earned the wild card status as the team having the best winning percentage among the three conference runner-ups beating out the Western Conference Leamington Flyers and the Golden Horseshoe Conference St. Catharines Falcons.

Backed by the goaltending of the OHA Junior B Player of the Year Jonathan Reinhart, the Sugar Kings downed the London Nationals 4-1 in game five of the best-of-seven championship final series at the Western Fair in London on Friday, May 5.  London had advanced to the finals by eliminating the Mid-Western champion Listowel Cyclones while Elmira snuffed the three-time defending Sutherland Cup champs, the Golden Horseshoe champion Caledonia Pro-Fit Corvairs.

Netminder Reinhart, who is bound for the University of Windsor next year, was truly the difference in the series.  He consistently shut down the Nationals coming up with important saves during key times in the series.  He allowed only 4 goals against in Elmira’s four wins over the Nationals.  Reinhart’s finest moments likely came in the first two games of the series which Elmira won 3-2 and 2-0.  Both games were played in London with the Sugar Kings being outshot 49-24 and 40-24 for a combined total of 89-48 with Reinhart just allowing 2 goals against.  London would outshoot Elmira 185-153 in the series.

Reinhart and his teammates were also very effective in nullifying London’s powerplay.  The Nats entered the series with the top ranked playoff powerplay.  London managed just 3 powerplay goals in 26 chances for a lowly 11.5% proficiency and failed to score a single powerplay goal in their 3 losses at home.  It also marked the first time in two seasons that London lost 3 games in a row at home.  Elmira clicked on 7 powerplay markers in 27 chances for a very respectable 25.9% success rate as well as adding 2 shorthanded goals in the series.  The Nationals were outscored 13-4 in their 4 losses to Elmira.

The loss was a bittersweet one for London.  It marked the second straight season that a visiting team hoisted the Sutherland Cup at the Western Fair.  Last season Caledonia swept London in four straight games.  The Nationals must take pride in the fact that they were Sutherland Cup finalists the last two seasons and have made it to the Cup finals in four of the last five years with their lone franchise Sutherland Cup win coming in 2013.  National head coach Pat Powers, a former Strathroy Blade, has built a tremendous program in London.  The Nats lose just four players to age for next season, goaltender Cameron Zanussi, defenseman Quinn Lenihan as well as forwards Austin Kemp and former Strathroy Rocket Liam Fordy.

Elmira’s Jake Brown became the first player in league history to win four consecutive Sutherland Cups.  Brown was a key member of Caledonia’s three cup wins.  Brown along with teammate Ethan Skinner tied for the playoff scoring title.  Brown won the tie-breaker based on goals scored winning the Pat and Jackie Stapleton Award.

In game five the Sugar Kings led 2-0 after one period.  After playing through a scoreless second period, the Nationals cut the Sugar King lead to 2-1 in the opening minute of the third period before Elmira tallied a pair of insurance markers in the second half of the period to secure the win, the series and the provincial championship.

After allowing four London goals in the previous game on National two-on-one breaks, Elmira opened the scoring with a two-on-one opportunity of their own at 3:06 when Zack Cameron set up Jacob Black (8) with a perfect pass.  London was guilty on many occasions of trying to force the play instead of playing a more patient game which led to many excellent Elmira scoring opportunities.

The Sugar Kings went up 2-0 at 18:19 on the game’s only powerplay goal.  Klayton Hoelscher (11) walked in from the blueline and slipped the puck past Zanussi.

As London continued to press, Elmira’s defense was very effective blocking shots and keeping the London shots to the outside.  Late in the period the Nats had a great chance on an odd man break when Brenden Trottier and Brandon Glover broke in but Reinhart once again came up with another solid save.

London outshot Elmira 14-11 in the opening period.

The scoreless second period was highlighted by the defensive play of the Sugar Kings.  Time and time again the Nationals’ shooting lanes were cut off by the Elmira defenders.  Many of the vocal 1,044 fans in attendance were from Elmira.  Their spirited support was a great source of inspiration for the Sugar Kings.  Zanussi came up with a huge save in the final minute of play on an Elmira odd man rush.  Second period shots favoured London 10-8.

Just 44 seconds into the third period a pass from behind the Elmira net by Sugar King defender Tyler McBay bounced over a teammate’s stick along the sideboards and was stopped by Lenihan at the point.  Lenihan’s (5) screened shot from the point was deflected off of an Elmira defender and past Reinhart.

London continued to press for the equalizer but Reinhart continued his stellar play.  At 12:01 Elmira scored the insurance goal they were desperately looking for.  The goal came quickly off of a faceoff win in the London defensive zone.  Skinner won the draw back to Jeff Jordan at the point.  Jordan spotted Mitch Hoelscher (8) parked next to the right goal post and hit him with a perfect shot/pass which Hoelscher redirected past Zanussi.  It was a beautifully executed goal.

Shortly later Zanussi came up with his best stop of the night when he stoned Klayton Hoelscher on a two-on-one opportunity.

With time slipping away Brown (15) put the game out of reach at 17:17 when he stripped the puck from Derek Di Iorio at the Sugar King blueline at the sideboards, outraced Lenihan down the ice, cut across the goalmouth and beat Zanussi with a backhand deke.

Trailing by 3 goals Zanussi was pulled for an extra attacker.  Reinhart came up with an outstanding stop on Carson Brookshaw to prevent any London comeback.  Third period shots were even at 10-10.  London outshot Elmira 34-29.  Elmira was 1 for 3 on the powerplay while London was unsuccessful in 4 attempts.

It was the fourth provincial title for Elmira.  They were champs in 1997 ousting the St. Catharines Falcons and the Strathroy Rockets, in 2001 over the Thorold Blackhawks and the Chatham Maroons and in 2011 downing the Niagara Falls Canucks and the St. Thomas Stars.

On the local front the Strathroy Rockets held their annual Spring Evaluation Camp at the West Middlesex Memorial Centre on Saturday, May 6.  Prospective players who caught the attention of the Rocket brass will be invited back for summer skates and to the main training camp in mid-August.  The hunt for a new Strathroy Rocket head coach continues after the Rockets parted ways with Jason Glover after just one season behind the Rocket bench.  Assistant coach Jason Furlong will be returning along with Rocket general manager and director of hockey operations Mike Bondy.  If you are interested in volunteering with the hockey club or being a billeting family you may contact the team at gorocketsgojhl@gmail.com and a member of the Rockets hockey operations department will contact you.  Prospective players may contact the Rockets’ general manager Mike Bondy at 519-870-7825 or mike.bondo19@gmail.com.

David Honsberger

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