Special to The Lake Report
It was another successful weekend for the Niagara Jr. A Predators with two victories pushing their winning streak to 10 games.
The team (18-4-0) remains in third place in their division of the Greater Metro Hockey League behind Durham and North York.
Their final game of 2021 this Sunday against North York will be a tough test as the Renegades handed the Predators a 5-2 loss in late October.
In back-to-back home games last week, Niagara beat the Windsor Aces 11-8 Friday night and the Streetsville Flyers 8-2 Sunday afternoon. Friday’s game was in stark contrast to Niagara’s game against Windsor just a week prior, when they skated to an easy 10-3 victory.
“They beat us to the puck, they beat us to the man and they beat us to the net,” said head coach and team owner Robert Turnbull about the Aces. “They outplayed us.”
Turnbull feels some of his players were expecting a repeat of the prior week’s game, which may have caused them to be a little overconfident. He had also used the large lead as a means to give some players more ice time, something he did not repeat this week, which caught a few players by surprise, he said.
“Some of the players didn’t get the ice time they thought they were going to get, because we beat them badly last time,” he said.
“Beating them badly last time doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same this time. So the kids got their heads down, a few boys lost their confidence. We talked about it and between the second a third period a few words were said and they did a better job at taking their man and we got a little bit of goaltending in the third period.”
Windsor had to pick up two substitutes from the Plattsville Lakers for Friday’s game under a league rule that teams must have a roster of at least 12 skaters, even if that means drawing players from other teams. In Windsor’s case they were short players due to exams.
“They brought two of the top Plattsville players to help, too, which I don’t agree with, but it’s neither here nor there.”
He later clarified his statement on the rule, adding he thought they were bringing up just one player.
“It’s to help the league, I’m OK with it but I just have to make sure it’s being exercised properly. They played great, I give them full marks. They have some skills and a couple fabulous defencemen.”
Niagara took an early three-goal lead by the end of the first period thanks to Alexander Insulander, Brenden Morin and Georgy Kholmovsky. Things really took off in the second period with five goals for Windsor as well as singles by the Predators' Dante Massi and Jesper Eriksson plus Insulander’s second of the night.
The goals kept coming in the third, with Maxwell Bredin and Pontus Madsen each netting a point while Eriksson and Morin got their second tallies of the night and Insulander his third. Windsor’s three third-period goals actually tied the game briefly at 8-8 before Niagara pulled ahead for the win.
None of Windsor’s goals came from the Plattsville subs.
Things on the ice improved Sunday, with Predators general manager Johan Eriksson saying his team played well from start-to-finish. He shares Turnbull’s disappointment in Friday’s performance – something felt through the entire dressing room – but thinks they righted some wrongs and learned from their mistakes.
“Friday we left the mid-zone fully open, we didn’t have anyone helping our goalie, our forwards didn’t help our defence, our defence didn’t help our forwards. So we really just had to change that on Sunday,” he said. “They came prepared Sunday and it was nice to see the players having fun.”
The game started slow with Madsen being the first to make the scoresheet almost 13 minutes into the game. Insulander quickly gave his team a three-point lead with back-to-back goals in the first four minutes of the second period followed by a fourth marker by Alessandro Massi.
Windsor’s only two goals came 11:52 and 17:44 into the second period with Eriksson and Kholmovsky answering back with a goal each for a 6-2 lead after 40 minutes.
The final period started with matching roughing and 10-minute misconduct penalties for Niagara’s Brett Lee and Streetsville’s Hudson Hinich almost seven minutes into the period. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Predators' last two goals from Dante Massi and Noah Caperchione, the latter in his first game back after sitting out Friday with an injury.
The Predators hit the ice for their last two games of 2021 this weekend, starting at the Meridian Credit Union Arena Friday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. once again against Windsor. They finish on the road Sunday versus North York, who dealt Niagara one of its four losses this season.