Special to The Lake Report
Was it payback? A grudge match? Or just hard-fought hockey?
It’s hard to know what to call Friday night’s Jr. A Niagara Predators game but one thing was certain, it was a nail-biter.
The Predators faced-off against the St. George Ravens – the only team to beat them so far this season – and scored a decisive 3-2 victory to put them in the top spot in their division of the Greater Metro Hockey League.
Niagara now holds a 4-1 record and the atmosphere was tense throughout the Meridian Credit Union Arena for all three periods. St. George’s Kyle Munyankuge got the first goal of the game with less than three minutes left in the first period but Niagara’s Alexander Insulander managed to tie it up literally at the last possible second.
Jesper Eriksson got Niagara’s second goal 15 minutes into the second period and Emil Erkisson earned the Predators their third just 40 seconds later. A minute later, St. George closed the gap with Mike Marchesan netting his team’s second of the night. Three goals in the span of a minute and 43 seconds.
A close third period had everyone on the edge of their seats but Predators goaltender Oskar Spinnars Nordin turned away everything the Ravens could throw at him for a total of 44 saves – and the game’s first star.
“Four and one, it’s pretty exciting,” said Predators head coach Andrew Whalen.
“It’s a great start, especially being in a new location, and we’re really happy with the guys and I think once we get more bodies we’re going to keep on a roll. We’re really happy in this locker room.”
St. George cost the Predators their only loss so far this season, which Whalen said felt like being “robbed of something,” so he concedes the payback felt good, praising his team for playing their hearts out.
“I think we were really just a little bit more hungry,” he said, adding the players were still feeling each other out as a team when they first played St. George.
“We weren’t firing the puck at first and tonight we were just finding some of those passes and getting the shots off and that helped us get some success.”
Whalen admits there might be a bit of a rivalry between his team and the Ravens, both of which have the same owner.
“With our owner owning both teams, I think we want to prove we’re the stronger team.”
Words were certainly exchanged between players during the game but only St. George seemed to pay the price, earning three penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct by the end of the game.
“I’m just more proud of the guys that their character showed. They stopped from the first games where they were maybe mouthing back and now they’ve closed their mouths and realized the other team’s going to get penalties and we’re going to have chances on a powerplay,” said Whalen.
“We don’t worry about the refs. We worry about playing our game.”
The Predators hope to keep their winning streak going on the road this Sunday, Oct. 17, with their second meeting of the season versus the Streetsville Flyers. Game time is 12:30 p.m.