1.2 C
Niagara Falls
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Jr. A Predators finally back on the ice

Kevan Dowd

Special to The Lake Report

The Niagara Jr. A Predators returned to the ice last weekend for the first time in nearly 50 days, skating away with a win and a narrow loss to the top team in their division.

Niagara’s 2022 debut came last Friday night at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil where they were dealt a 5-4 loss by the Durham Roadrunners who sit in first place in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s southern division.

“Yeah, Friday night was a tough one just with it being their first game in over a month, the boys are still getting back into skating together,” said assistant coach Connor Shipton.

A combination of Christmas break and the most recent COVID-19 lockdown had kept the Predators off the ice since their last game of 2021 – on Dec. 19.

Durham proved tough competition, sitting three spots above them with 23 wins to Niagara’s 20. It was also the first time the two teams had played each other.

“We got off to a really slow start and weren’t playing very well,” said Shipton. “It was just really unfortunate timing with that being the only team we haven’t played before and we were short some guys, too. But we were able to battle back towards the end but they just got us with a late goal.”

Although Niagara beat Durham onto the scoreboard with a goal two minutes in from Noah Caperchione, the Roadrunners netted two of their own by the end of the first period. Durham capitalized on a Predators penalty with a power play goal at the eight-minute mark of the second to bring their total to three.

A second goal for Niagara came courtesy Dante Massi to tighten the gap but a fourth goal for Durham meant the Predators would enter the final 20 minutes trailing by two.

Things started going Niagara’s way in the final frame with a tally from Predators' new recruit Alexander Andrews and a power play goal from Brendan Morin making for a 4-4 tie with seven minutes to go.

But with less than two minutes to go, Kyle Smith sealed the victory for Durham.

The Predators fared better Sunday afternoon in Windsor with a 7-5 win over the Aces.

“Once again we had a slow start in the first half but about halfway through we started to pick up our game,” said Shipton.

“We started playing with a high guy in the offensive zone for both defence and offence and the guys came back with five quick goals. So it was a very strong ending to the game and we’re feeling good about that.”

Caperchione opened the scoring once again but it was all Windsor for the rest of the first period who were up two goals after 20 minutes. Things balanced out in the second period with goals for Niagara’s Gino Carter Squire, new-hire Alexander Page, and Pontus Madsen. Windsor responded with a single tally.

Finally having gained their footing, the Predators dominated the third period with Reese Bisci netting his team’s fifth goal two-and-a-half minutes in and despite an equalizer from Windsor’s Brock Grandbois, Niagara secured the win with markers from Alexander Insulander and Jason Humphries in the final two minutes for a 7-5 win.

“That game went a lot better and we’re looking at working off that and continuing from there,” said Shipton.

“We’re just looking to build off of the last half of the Windsor game and play like we can. We just need to continue to get back into the swing of things and strengthen our game.”

Absent for both games were top-scorers Emil Eriksson – who is still stuck in his native Sweden – and Jesper Eriksson, who is in tryouts for a European professional league.

“Jesper may or may not be back. We don’t know yet,” said Shipton. “It’s definitely unfortunate to lose him but this is what we’re here for, to give these guys a chance to move on to the higher-level leagues.”

Team captain Mario Zitella also geared up Friday night for the first time in months, having been unable to play under league regulations due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury and was a scratch on Sunday night.

The team had just 14 skaters in Windsor but among them were two players Niagara picked up just before the trade deadline: former Tottenham Thunder captain Alex Andrews, 21-year-old defenceman Alexander Page of Niagara Falls and 6-foot-7 netminder Morgan Penwell.

Niagara will spend the upcoming weekend on the road, facing the Streetsville Flyers in Mississauga on Friday night and the Plattsville Lakers Sunday afternoon. They return to Niagara on Friday, Feb. 18, against the North York Renegades at 7:30 p.m.

Subscribe to our mailing list