(KINGSVILLE, ON) – After a loss that was akin to a rollercoaster ride in their season debut, the home opener for the Kingsville Kings hockey club was a back-to-business affair. The Kings opened the year this past weekend, taking to the ice for their second season in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League.
Saturday evening, the Kings travelled north to square off with their rivals, the London Lakers. The Kings, although leading at multiple points in the game, could not hold onto the lead and the Lakers made them pay.
After a scoreless first period, Kingsville’s David Vostarek broke the deadlock a minute and a half into the frame. Soon after, Marvin Simmons potted his first of the season to extend the lead.
London’s top line sprung to action, as Regan Yew snapped home a natural hat-trick in just under 10 minutes of play. Late in the act, The Lakers’ Jake Trask took a roughing minor and Tyler Garcia evened the game on the advantage.
The period ended with the score knotted at 3.
To open the third stanza, London’s Matthew Cameron cashed in while short-handed only a minute into the period. Midway through, Vostarek would pounce again, followed by Brendan Sorrels to take a late lead.
With less than a minute left in the game, the Lakers were able to lock the play down in the Kingsville zone. Working the puck around, London fed the puck to Yew who netted his fourth, sending the game to overtime.
Yew was a one-man wrecking crew. In the extra frame, the Laker found the back of the net for a fifth time, scoring the golden sombrero and winning the game 6-5 for his club.
Kingsville’s Chase Stanford stopped 36 shots, picking up a regulation tie, while London’s Garrett Storms turned away the same in the victory.
Matt Culot and Matyas Kasek each picked up a pair of assists for the Kings, while singles went to Adam Kusior, Andrew Baxter, Ondra Tomek, Jaromir Vlcek, and Blake Naida.
A night later, the Kings were welcomed home to a warm reception from their hometown faithful. After a banner raising ceremony for last year’s South Division championship and introductions for the players and staff, Kingsville welcomed a new foe; the Northumberland Stars.
Culot opened the scoring for the Kings, five minutes in, while on the power play. Seconds later, the Stars drove to the net and, with some incidental contact with Kingsville tender Justin Lalonde, Daystar Smallboy was able to flip the puck into the net to tie the game.
Halfway through the frame, Kings veteran Dan Leach and Northumberland’s Tyler Brackin met up for a little tea time. No clear victor.
Soon after, the Stars’ Cole Pellerin was assessed a high stick major, which he would soon regret.
With seven minutes left in the period, Naida would knock in a rebound off a Simmons blast from the point. The period would end with a Kingsville 2-1 advantage.
Through the first and most of the middle act, Maksim Kuteinikov was all that stood between the Stars and total annihilation. The Kings’ 2-1 lead would last until there were less than five minutes remaining in the second frame.
By this time, the Stars’ netminder, a Kontinental Hockey League draftee, faced more rubber than one would ever want to endure, but finally succumbed to the Kingsville onslaught.
Simmons shattered the Kuteinikov Wall with 4:30 left on the clock, hammering the biscuit from point blank range after Naida stripped it from a nonchalant defender. Half a minute later, Vostarek slammed the puck from the high slot, bending the mesh behind the Finnish tender’s trapper.
Not even a minute later, Kasek chipped in another goal from the top of the crease, before Marek Gharibyar sent the water bottle flying with a backdoor rebound goal.
Kuteinikov remained in net for the start of the third with his team down 6-1. Kingsville was not done yet, though.
Six minutes into the last stanza, Kasek was able to knock in a rebound goal, leading to the departure of Kuteinikov. A fresh Curtis Campbell entered the pipes and was quickly bombarded.
Campbell briefly held down the fort in relief of the Finn, but he too was eventually overwhelmed with flying, vulcanized rubber, and allowed two late ones from Adam Kusior and Brendan Cheslock. The final score was 9-1.
Lalonde was victorious in his first ever Kings start, stopping 21 of 22. The two Northumberland goalies were bombarded with 81 shots.
Kingsville’s assists went to Culot, Simmons, Baxter, Zach McDonough, and Miroslav Hylena with two apiece, while Kasek, Gharibyar, Cheslock, Tomek, and Vlcek each picked up a single.
“It’s always tough to lose the first game,” said head coach Michael Guzzo. “But, we played well and bounced back with a good home opener. A lot of positives from the weekend and [we will] always have things to work on to get better.”
Guzzo joins the defending South Division champions and GMHL finalists as Gary Astalos stepped away from the Kings to join the Adrian College ACHA Division I program.
The new coach is no novice. Guzzo played his minor days in the Michigan AAA system before stepping up to the USHL’s Chicago Steel for a season and the BCHL’s Penticton Vees for three.
He then moved on to the NCAA where he played and studied at Curry College and Finlandia, then stepping into pro hockey in Poland and the SPHL. He has spent his recent years developing teenage hockey players in Alabama, coaching the first team from the state to place at nationals.
“We have 7 or 8 returning players,” said the coach. “[We’re a] skilled team with grit. A team that competes every night.”
The Kings travel back up to London this coming Saturday to renew hostilities with the Lakers. Their next home game at Kingsville Arena is Sunday at 3:00pm as they host a reportedly newly built Niagara Whalers squad.
Kingsville won all nine games between the two clubs last season.