This season’s Jr. A Niagara Predators might be a tale of two teams: the Predators in practices and the Predators on game day – two wholly different squads, according to head coach Kevin Taylor.
After picking up some wins in the last few weeks, the Predators lost their only game of the weekend and fell back down through the ranks in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division.
Losing 5-2 to the Tottenham Railers on the road Sunday, the Predators sit in second-last place but, fortunately, just a couple points below the next two teams.
“We were just flat. One line played OK but there’s nobody there on this team right now that can take over the game and that’s what we’re missing,” said Taylor.
“I think they’re a little rattled and they’re struggling. Any amount of adversity, they fall apart and they take themselves out of the game.”
Things started evenly, with Niagara’s Luca Fernandez giving his team the lead late in the first period but Tottenham tied things up going into the second. Two early goals put Tottenham out front before Isaac Locker notched a second for the Predators at the 15-minute mark.
An ugly third period meant multiple penalties for both teams but only Tottenham managed to capitalize, scoring twice more on power plays.
The cost of the penalties was not lost on Taylor. Particularly a pair of five-minute fighting majors, during which Tottenham netted their last two tallies.
“Tottenham took a lot of penalties but we couldn’t capitalize on them and the penalties we took were horrible at the time,” he said.
“Five minutes left in the game, it’s 3-2, we’re on a power play and that’s when everything fell apart. Guys started taking some stupid penalties and it just kind of snowballed from there,” Taylor said.
“And then because things didn’t go the way they expected them to go, their reactions made things even worse.”
But for Taylor, the most baffling thing is the difference he sees between his team at practices compared to game days. Right now, it’s a puzzle he is working with team president and GM Robert Turnbull to solve.
“We practise, we look amazing – we’re amazing in practice – but then when we get to the game, it’s a totally different story,” said Taylor.
“I don’t know where the disconnect is, it’s frustrating because you start second-guessing yourself.”
If the coaching staff is going to get things figured out, now is the time.
The Predators’ next six games have them exclusively playing the league’s top three teams: North York Renegades, Bradford Bulls and Durham Roadrunners. Tottenham sits in fourth.
“We have North York on Friday, it will be a tough week of practices, we’ll have to regroup and figure this out quickly,” said Taylor.
“The mistakes that we’re making, they’re costing us points. The positive is, there’s no lack of talent, the coaching staff has put together a fabulous game plan and systems. It’s just not transitioning into the game.”
The Predators take on the North York Renegades Friday, Dec. 8 at the Meridian Credit Union Arena at 7:30 p.m.
The team has also organized a food and clothing drive for Friday night’s game. Fans are encouraged to donate what they can.