(KINGSVILLE, ON) – The Kingsville Kings hockey club is adjusting to their new divisional alignment. The good news for local fans is that their usual competition is doing so as well, leading to a more competitive atmosphere in the Kingsville Arena.
The London Lakers and Niagara Whalers, who both proved to be mostly lackluster competition last season, each now own wins over the Kings. In their inaugural season, the Kings routinely slaughtered their competition with double-digit spreads. So far, three of four games this year have been nail biters and the only blowout was kept deadlocked until the backend of the second period.
Saturday evening the Kings travelled north to avenge their season-opening overtime loss to the Lakers with a 4-2 win.
“London was a good game,” said coach Michael Guzzo. “[We] played a good team and never gave up. [It] isn’t always about getting back at the team that beat us, but playing a solid game and getting better each game.”
As per usual in Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League matchups, there was no shortage of penalties between Kingsville and London.
The Lakers’ Kieran Milne broke the stalemate with just under three minutes left in the 1st, followed by Regan Yew a minute later, and London carried a 2-nil lead into the break.
The middle frame was all-Kingsville. Matyas Kasek snapped the twine only 21 seconds in. Andrew Baxter found the back of the net, with help from Jakub Mecir, just before the midway point. Late in the period, Adam Kusior took the lead for the Kings, assisted by Mecir, before David Vostarek extended it on the power play, with less than half a minute left, on a pass from Kasek.
Kingsville’s 4-2 lead would stand through the third as Kings’ goalie Justin Lalonde and Laker Garrett Storms held both teams scoreless.
Lalonde’s 30 saves gave Kingsville the win, while Storms stopped 29 for London.
The next afternoon the Kings were back in their kingdom hosting the Whalers. Niagara, toting some big acquisitions, were most recently in Kingsville during last year’s South Division semi-final getting swept in three.
These were not the same Whalers.
Part way through the opening period, Niagara was the first to get going. Callahan Moretti was able to flip in a loose puck over Kings’ netminder Chase Stanford to give the Whalers a 1-zilch lead. Minutes later, Marvin Simmons would knot the game at one with helpers from Kusior and Marek Malinsky.
The stalemate did not last long as Niagara’s Matt John blasted a shot from the slot past Stanford’s trapper.
Late in the stanza, Kingsville’s Thomas McKinnon stepped up a couple weight classes to engage Matt Hore. They fought, fell, and fought again before being sent to watch from the stands.
The only goal in the second would go to the Whalers’ Tanner Allen as he drove to the net, overpowering a defender, then smashed through Stanford’s poke check before sliding it in.
Down 3-1 at the start of the third, Kingsville could not seem to find the traction they needed to get back in the game. At the halfway point of the final act, Niagara’s Manny Manns slammed home a power play marker through a crowd in front to further the Whaler cause.
Ondra Tomek’s blast on the man-advantage, with less than a minute to go, would make the game more interesting, but it is was not enough, as the Whalers walked away with the 4-2 win.
Stanford and Niagara’s Austin Dero would each be pelted with 36 shots.
“In think … we could have done better in all three zones,” Guzzo said the next day. “We will learn from the mistakes and grow on the positives.”
The Kings return to action this coming Friday as they head over to St George to meet the newly relocated Ravens. Their next home game will be this Sunday at 3:00pm as they host the Komoka Dragons for the first time this season.