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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Sports: Inconsistent effort mars Preds’ three-game weekend
Niagara Predators and North York Renegades react very differently after the home team’s Luca Fernandez scored to give Niagara a short-lived 2-1 lead. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

A mixed-bag of on-ice efforts saw the Jr. A Niagara Predators finishing Sunday afternoon with three out of a possible six points from their first three-game weekend of the season.

The Predators started strong Friday night, crushing the Northumberland Stars 7-1, but it wound up being their only win of the weekend.

A 4-2 loss on the road to the Tottenham Railers followed on Saturday, but Sunday’s game proved to be the weekend’s biggest surprise.

Facing the North York Renegades in Virgil Sunday afternoon, the Predators held their own against the top team in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division. While unable to capture a W, the team took the Renegades into overtime before suffering a disappointing loss.

They still skated away with one point.

“It was a good game and I think the fans enjoyed it so that’s good for the support. I said to the guys, this is the best team in the league and you guys played with them,” said Predators head coach Kevin Taylor.

“The biggest disappointment about this game was (Saturday) night’s performance. We could’ve come out of this weekend with five points.”

Niagara’s Ethan Culp opened the scoring halfway through Sunday’s game, but the Predators remained in the lead for just three minutes. Luca Fernandez put his team back out front at the 7:21 mark of the third period and the Renegades tied it late.

The three-on-three OT proved the Preds’ undoing. With North York’s top players all on the ice, it took just 26 seconds for them to notch the winner.

“Their top three guys are the three guys. They have speed,” said Taylor. North York also has a full bench, he added.

“Our top three guys, you can tell they’re a step behind because they’re tired. We’ve been short-benched all weekend.”

As early as Friday Taylor was talking about their eventual match-up against North York.

“We can’t bring any little bad habit. We have to be perfect,” he said. “They have a guy (forward Christopher Rende), who in nine games has gotten 35 points. We can’t allow them to walk around like they have been with other teams.”

Niagara dominated the first period Friday night against Northumberland, with goals from Jakov Shevchenko, Shane Kaplan and Culp.

Reese Bisci and Cameron Savoie kept things rolling well into the second period before Northumberland got their only marker. Gehrig Lindberg netted his team’s sixth of the night and Bisci finished things off with seven minutes to go.

“We had the game from start to finish,” said Taylor. “But it’s tough because when you dominate the game like we did, bad habits come up. I’m trying not to be negative but there were things I saw tonight that can’t happen.”

Perhaps those bad habits came out the following night where two second-period tallies from Fernandez were not enough to secure a second victory. The 4-2 loss to Tottenham left Taylor with no explanation for what went wrong.

“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” he said. “Our top guys didn’t come to play and our guys who don’t see as much ice time didn’t prove that they wanted to be there.”

Still, Sunday’s performance was likely the highlight of the weekend for the Predators, even if the OT loss was a hard one to stomach.

“I just said to them, hold your heads up high, this is the best team in the league and we battled with them.”

With the NOTL Wolves Harvest Classic minor hockey tournament on all this weekend, the Predators will hit the road for Saturday and Sunday games against Northumberland and the St. George Ravens.

They are back at the Meridian Credit Union Arena Friday, Nov. 10 to host North York again.

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