Why score, if you can’t win? That’s the question the Jr. A Niagara Predators’ players may need to start asking themselves.
Following their sixth straight loss Saturday, the Predators now sit in second-last place in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division.
A 6-3 loss Friday to the North York Renegades in Virgil, followed by an 8-1 decision to them the next day on the road puts Niagara in the longest dry spell of its season.
Predators’ head coach Kevin Taylor said staff are looking at game tapes for answers but he thinks some of the problem comes down to a persistent issue of players focusing more on stats than wins.
“There’s a lot of individuals and they’re more worried about points and what they’re going to do next year. Unfortunately they’re not looking at the bigger picture,” said Taylor.
“They start off well but as the game progresses, they get away from the game plan.”
“When they execute what they’ve been told, they do well. Then all the sudden it seems like the game is too long, or maybe the systems we put in place are too boring for them and then it’s not a team game.”
Friday started off well for the Predators, as they almost matched the Renegades shot for shot and had a 2-1 lead going into the second period thanks to markers by Luca Fernandez and Gehrig Lindberg.
Lindberg’s second of the night briefly putting his team ahead by two 12 minutes into the second, but it didn’t last.
The Renegades peppered the Niagara net with shots, scoring three in a span of 1:26 in the second period and five goals in total over the last half of the game.
Things didn’t improve on the road Saturday, with Georgy Kholmovsky netting Niagara’s only tally of the night in a lopsided 8-1 loss.
While Taylor and his coaching staff are left dumbfounded by a team that looks good in practice but cannot seem to perform on game days, he thinks a lot of the issues are psychological.
He feels the only solution is to personally hold his players accountable for their actions, good and bad.
“I can’t make any more excuses, ultimately this falls on me,” he said.
“I have to get it through to them and as a coach I’m struggling in that aspect just because we’ve gone through all the scenarios: are they not good hockey players, are they not smart hockey players, have they not been coached before?”
“We’ve sat down with the team and asked them these things and we’re not getting the answers. And that’s a problem because we need to know, if I’m doing something wrong – and I said this in a meeting with them – then let me know.”
But one of the biggest issues Taylor faces is teaching his players that while individual points are great, being on a winning team is just as important when being scouted by other teams.
“A lot of these teams would rather look for top 10 scoring on a first-place team, than the first-place scorer on a bottom team,” he said.
But as usual, Taylor still tries to find positives, even in the face of a losing streak.
“It’s nice to have this slump now because I truly believe where we are in the standings now is not a reflection on the team or the effort the guys have put in during practice. It’s just not coming together in game time,” he said.
“Every game is hard for us right now because we are struggling, but we have an easier weekend coming up, so a couple wins if we can get them will turn things around and everybody will be happy,” he said.
“Guys will be laughing and enjoying hockey, coaching staff will have smiles on their face, hopefully.”
The Predators return to Virgil’s Meridian Credit Union Arena this Friday, Nov. 17 when they take on the Tottenham Railers at 7:30 p.m.