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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Hockey: Jr. A Predators net pair of Thanksgiving victories

Undermanned NOTL team expects new players to arrive this weekend


Kevan Dowd
Special to The Lake Report

The Jr. A Niagara Predators had plenty to be thankful for this past weekend, earning back-to-back wins against the Tottenham Thunder in Greater Metro Hockey League action.

And there's more to be thankful for as the team, which has been short players all season, expects some new additions in time for this weekend's games.

The Predators started things rolling Friday night at Virgil’s Meridian Credit Union Arena when they shut out the Thunder 5-0 to notch their second home win in a row. The run continued the following evening when they added a 6-2 win in Tottenham.

Niagara’s goaltenders were the first stars in both games, with Oskar Spinnars-Nordin turning aside all 61 shots he faced Friday and William Fagemo stopping 53 shots on Saturday.

Captain Mario Zitella led the way again Saturday with two goals, while Dante Massi added a goal and two assists. Alex Insulander, Jesper Eriksson and Emil Eriksson rounded out the scoring.

On Friday night in Virgil, the Predators started out strong, with 32 shots on goal resulting in a three-goal lead by the end of the first period for Niagara.

Defenceman Brett Lee kicked things off with an unassisted goal after just six minutes of play, with forwards Jesper Eriksson and Gino Carter-Squire adding the second and third markers less than two minutes apart.

The second period saw Alex Insulander netting the Predators’ fourth goal of the game followed by Massi putting one past Tottenham starting goaltender Jack Boudreau for the fifth and final tally.

Tottenham managed to keep the puck out of their net for the rest of the second and entire third period but was unable to get on the scoreboard.

“Other than we were outshot two of the three periods, I think we were doing the right things,” said Predators head coach Andrew Whalen.

The players were “over passing at times,” he noted. “We just have to create some of those tendencies for some of the stronger teams. Other than that, I thought it was a good evening out for the boys.”

While Saturday night’s game may not have produced a shutout, Whalen was still very pleased with his team’s performance.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “Getting four points over the weekend is obviously great anytime and what a great start to the season.”

The first period started off well, but it was in the second period that things really picked up, with four goals for the Predators.

“Honestly, I thought the second period was the best hockey we’ve played all year,” said Whalen. “Things just started to click and come together and I hope we can keep that momentum up and just keep going.”

The Predators, now 3-1 on the season, have a rematch this Friday night with the St. George Ravens, the only team to beat them so far. But Whalen is feeling optimistic.

“We’re going to keep working on what we’ve been doing over the past week,” said Whalen. “Just tighten some things up but I think we can have some real success this upcoming weekend.”

Also likely to help the Predators this weekend is the probable addition of at least one new player, Georgy Kholmovsky from St. Petersburg, Russia, said general manager Johan Eriksson.

Another hopeful, Constant Nison of France, was signed to the team last week but was turned away after attempting to make the move due to international COVID restrictions. Eriksson said the team is still working at adding him to the roster, ideally as early as next weekend.

A short bench has been an issue for Niagara since the start of the season, something Eriksson attributes to obstacles created by COVID and travel logistics.

He said his team is also looking at some local players and is open to Niagara natives throwing their hats in the ring if they are interested in joining the team, saying they are looking for as many as five or six players.

“We hope to have four to five new players next weekend,” Eriksson said in an interview. “So this weekend we just had to survive and play on a short bench but they do awesome, they really do.”

While he feels his team is doing well, he thinks the additional players will be the clincher.

“We know how they are as a player. It will give some slack to the guys we have who are right now double-shifting because we don’t have enough bodies, and give them some rest,” he said.

“If we get injuries, we need them in. It’ll only help, it’ll only be positive and they all bring something unique.”

“I think they’ll fit right in. I’m excited to watch them this week.”

The Predators face the St. George Ravens this Friday at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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