Special to The Lake Report
After a week without playing, the Niagara Predators were back at it this weekend and making up for lost time, playing three games straight and picking up two Ws in the process.
The Predators first returned to the ice Friday night at the Meridian Credit Union Arena, beating the Plattsville Lakers 4-2, followed by a home-and-home series against the Northumberland Stars.
Niagara lost their Saturday road game 3-1 but secured a 6-0 victory in Virgil the next day. Niagara now sits in third place in the Greater Metro Jr. A Hockey southern division.
Friday night saw the Predators start with a 3-0 lead over Plattsville after the first period with two goals for Emil Eriksson and a third off a penalty shot by Alexander Insulander. The Lakers bagged their first point of the night 6:38 into the second period, with Jesper Eriksson netting the Predators fourth goal less than two minutes later. Plattsville fought hard through the third with Malcolm Campbell scoring five and a half minutes in but his team still fell two goals short.
“Overall it was a great game,” said team owner Robert Turnbull. “Most of our goals are pretty goals. We need some dirty goals.”
Turnbull credits three great practices ahead of the weekend for contributing to the win. The Predators had a bye week over the Nov. 5-7 weekend, but as for having a “week off” from playing, Turnbull had a blunt response.
“What week off?” he said with a laugh. “It was good for the kids, it was really good for the kids. I’m out looking at other games, and doing other things but I don’t think the general manager or coach gets the week off but I think it’s a nice rest.”
Currently, Turnbull is also acting as the team’s coach. Team management had originally indicated they were in the process of finding a replacement for their original head coach Andrew Whalen following his departure after six games but Turnbull seems to be warming up to the role.
“I’m still doing it. I think I’m getting along with the young men. We’ve had a few talks,” he said about staying in the role.
“We’ll see, but let’s put it this way, I’m enjoying it.”
Prior to the Predators’ second and third games of the weekend, general manager Johan Eriksson was optimistic thanks to a larger roster than his team has seen all season. The team has struggled to dress more than three lines since their opening game.
The strategy for the weekend was to avoid penalties. “We can’t afford to lose guys. Right now we have almost four lines and seven defence,” he said.
“We’ve never had that but now when we have three games back-to-back against maybe the most physical teams we need to have them and be smart and play short shifts.”
Unfortunately, Saturday’s game did see some lengthy stays in the box for certain Predators, including 10 minutes for Reese Bisci on a misconduct call but Northumberland’s Bo Stevenson served the same penalty right next to him.
“We could tell their game plan was to get on us from the get-go,” said Eriksson. “They played a bit dirty and we kind of sunk to their level. And when you focus on that, you’re not going to do as well with scoring.”
Neither team made the scoreboard until the second period with two for Northumberland after seven minutes of play and another a little more than halfway through the period. Insulander scored Niagara’s only goal with 5:40 left in the second period but an empty netter by Northumberland’s Jacob Cook late in the third put the game out of reach for the Predators.
Niagara came back with a fury Sunday night, outshooting Northumberland 47-23 and blanking them 6-0.
Mario Zitella had a pair of goals to start things off, followed by a third courtesy Emil Eriksson – all in the first five minutes of the game. Similarly to the first period, Jesper Eriksson and Pontus Madsen earned a goal apiece within the first three minutes of the second period, both on power plays. Emil Eriksson got his second of the night – and his team’s sixth – with just 2:30 left in the game.
Niagara also spent considerably less time in the box than their opponents with a total of just eight penalty minutes compared to Northumberland’s 19 minutes, almost half of which came in the second period alone.
“Sunday was one of our best games so far,” said the Predators’ GM, adding he was particularly pleased with his team’s four power play goals. “We had decided to show them who was the better hockey team and I think we did that.”
The Predators play the Tottenham Thunder at home this Friday, Nov. 19. This will be their third time facing each other – with Niagara having won each of the previous games – and the debut of their newest goaltender, Iain Riordon. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.