On a night when the goaltending was superb and the defence was solid, the offence sputtered for Orillia's Experience Nissan Kings as they lost a heart-breaking 9-8 decision Saturday night to the Oakville Buzz.
The visitors got off to a fast start at Rotary Place, scoring just 52 seconds into the contest and took advantage of a team that looked tired early on to build a 4-2 advantage after 20 minutes.
But the home side showed some fight in the middle stanza. After Orillia netminder Cam Murphy stopped a short-handed breakaway and then made another stellar save seconds later, the Kings struck for two goals in 48 seconds to finally get back on even ground with the pesky Buzz at 6-6. However, with just seven ticks on the clock, Oakville snipped a back-breaking goal to lift them back into a narrow lead heading into the final frame.
In the third period, Oakville netminder Matt Hodowany made a pair of stellar stops to thwart the hard-charging Kings and the Buzz exploded for two goals in a six-second span to stretch their lead to 9-6. The Kings, however, refused to go quietly into the night.
Rookie Mitchell Pellarin scored a pretty breakaway goal to close the gap and Chris McLaughlin took a nifty pass from David Wilkie and then flashed quick hands to use a deft deke to tally a short-handed beauty that made it 9-8 halfway through the frame.
The Oakville defence stifled the Kings the rest of the game, frustrating the Orillia forward's time and time again. In the dying seconds, with Murphy on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, McLaughlin broke in all alone with a chance to knot the score but Hodowany made a critical stop to preserve the win and help his team improve to 4-4.
For the Kings, it was a disappointing result that saw their mini two-game win streak come to a crashing halt. Outside of McLaughlin, who continued his excellent play by leading the attack with four goals in a dominant performance, the offence seemed out of sync. Countless times, Kings snipers took low-percentage shots or just failed to click on passes that led to many turnovers and odd-man rushes the other way. While McLaughlin was the top gun, Dallin Blunt, Tyler Goodchild and Michael Montgomery also contributed goals while Goodchild added a pair of helpers.
Oakville used its speed and transition game at times to confound the Kings, who took three bench minor penalties for too many men on the floor as the home side struggled in the critical transition component of the game to defend the quick and talented Buzz forwards.
Despite the setback, all was not lost on the weekend as the Kings fired on all cylinders Friday night and cruised to an 18-12 win over the visiting Mississauga Tomahawks. Veteran Matthew Campbell had an outstanding night for the Kings, scoring five goals and setting up four in the impressive victory.
After squandering a three-goal first-period lead, the Kings regrouped at the intermission and then exploded for six second-period goals to seize control of the contest. Blunt was a sparkplug for the victors with two goals and three helpers, while Wilkie also had a strong game, netting one goal and setting up five. Nevin King recorded a hat trick for the victors while Trent Boyd potted a pair and singles were netted by Goodchild and Sean Caulfield. Dylan O'Rourke earned the net win.
With the weekend split, the Kings now sport a 3-5 record and will look to improve on that Wednesday when they travel to West Durham to battle the Markham Ironheads (4-3-1). On Friday night, the Kings host Halton Hills (5-2-1) in an 8 p.m. contest at Rotary Place. On Saturday, Orillia will welcome the reigning national champions from Oshawa as the Green Gaels (9-1) tangle with the Kings at 7 p.m. at Rotary Place. Last year, Orillia was the only team to beat the Green Gaels in the regular season.
KING THINGS: Captain Jake Beard had a strong game Saturday night in anchoring the Kings' solid defensive effort. Campbell, a fifth-year player, was held off the scoresheet Saturday night -- a rarity for the gifted forward who leads the team in scoring with 29 points in seven games. Orillia's penalty killing was superb Saturday night, but their power play struggled as they failed to generate scoring opportunities on their two-man advantages. It was the polar opposite Friday night as the Kings scored five times on six power-play chances and Mississauga tallied five goals on nine opportunities.