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Niagara Falls
Monday, February 6, 2023
Hockey: Fight-filled game leads to coach, player suspensions
Niagara's Cole Ellis (#23) was one of several Predators, including coach Kevin Taylor, suspended after last Friday's game. Most of the mayhem appeared to be instigated by the visiting Northumberland Stars. Kevan Dowd

Jr. A Predators prevail over Northumberland but suffer 10-1 loss to North York


Last Friday night’s home game for the Jr. A Niagara Predators cast a long shadow over the rest of the week and contributed to a hefty loss the next night.

Fans at the Meridian Credit Union Arena were treated less to a hockey game between the Predators and visiting Northumberland Stars and more to a series of on-ice boxing matches.

The game ended in a 5-2 win for Niagara, plus 12 game disqualifications (four for Niagara), coaches suspended from both benches and 98 penalty minutes between the two teams.

With a minute left in the game, Northumberland cleared their bench, while off-ice a physical altercation occurred between fans from both teams, joined shortly by a pair of Northumberland players who left the ice.

With the Stars instigating most – if not all – of the fights, Predators head coach Kevin Taylor felt his team handled themselves well, but hot-headedness led to suspensions when his players were drawn into fights.

“That’s not our style of game,” Taylor said later.

“We don’t go out and do stuff in that aspect, and if we did, there is going to be serious repercussions and that’s not just from me, it’ll come down from ownership as well. We don’t want to build a program on guys being goons.”

The game started innocently enough with just three minor penalties in the first period. Niagara’s Nolan Wyers netted his team’s first goal six minutes in followed almost eight minutes later by teammate Cameron Savoie to match a pair by Northumberland.

Declan Fogarty scored a third for the Predators at the 11:48 mark of the second period with Wyers’ second of the night at 15:14. But fights and penalties would drag the period out by over 20 minutes.

The first fight of the night meant suspensions for Niagara’s Tyler Gearing and Northumberland’s Justice Scheltgen 7:41 into the period. But the royal rumble came in the closing minutes of the second.

A cross-check by Northumberland’s Thomas Murphy sparked a fight between the two teams.

That led to game disqualifications for Murphy and two of his teammates, Niagara’s Cole Ellis and brother Riley Ellis, who left the bench to join the scrum. That resulted in a three-game suspension for Taylor for failing to “hold the bench.”

A final game DQ that period would go only to the Stars after a slash to the face by Tommy McQuiston.

Things seemed to cool down during the final period with Niagara’s Reese Bisci notching his team’s final goal of the night with 9:10 left on the clock.

But things got nasty in the closing four minutes, with a fight that led to suspensions for Niagara’s Nick Savoie and Northumberland’s Aiden Dale.

The game ended with 1:09 still to play when the Stars cleared their bench, earning them an additional three suspensions, including their head coach, the only one on the bench.

Taylor was familiar with Northumberland’s reputation going into the game but said his players were never looking for a fight.

“This team is the team that pushes everyone around,” he said.

“I didn’t tell my guys to go out and do anything. I didn’t tell them to go out and fight. I just told them to go out and play hard and heavy, and I think we sent the message the first shift out.”

Feeling the effects of the suspensions the following night on the road, a short bench led by assistant coaches Connor Shipton and Greg Wilson suffered a 10-1 loss to the North York Renegades – the top team in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division.

Niagara’s sole tally came from Leo Savin after nearly 44 minutes of play.

“The 13 skaters didn’t help, but our discipline didn’t help,” Shipton said.

“A bunch of penalties left us off our game. They were able to capitalize on the mistakes.”

“We made a few too many mistakes, the penalties really hurt us, especially with a short bench. Discipline and composure was the big thing,” he added.

With Gearing, Savoie and Cole Ellis’ suspensions for just a single game, plus Jaroslav Dohnal returning from an injury sustained Friday, the Predators should be up four skaters from Saturday.

Riley Ellis’ penalties are still under review, making it unclear when he will return to the ice. With Taylor suspended for three games, he will not be behind the bench until after this Friday night’s game, leaving Shipton and Wilson in the driver’s seat.

“We’re just trying to keep things the same as Kevin would do and not change anything,” said Shipton.

“It’s just another obstacle we have to deal with. We’re up for the challenge. It’s just business as usual.”

The Predators return to the Meridian Credit Union Arena against the Windsor Aces this Friday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m.

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