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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Sports: Jr. A Predators ousted in first round of playoffs
#4 Tyler Gearing consoling goalie Zane Clausen. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
The Jr. A Niagara Predators lose 2-1 in shootout. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

In the end the difference was just one shot in a shootout thriller that could have gone either way.

The Jr. A Niagara Predators gave everything they had, but without securing a clutch win, their season came to an end Friday night.

A 1-1 tie after 60 minutes led to overtime and a lengthy shootout to settle things in favour of the Durham Roadrunners.

That gave Durham the best-of-three first-round series win.

Struggling for words after the game, Predators head coach Kevin Taylor praised his players for their effort.

“What I said to them after the game is, no matter how this year ends, unless you win the championship, it doesn’t end the way you wanted it to and to lose in this fashion is tough,” he said.

“Everything we’ve asked them to do all year they did tonight — you can’t fault them. There were no mistakes tonight.”

Taylor is not far off the mark in his assessment, supported by few penalty minutes throughout the game and a relatively even number of shots-on-goal for both teams.

After 20 goalless minutes, Durham scored 58 seconds into the second period, with Niagara sniper Luca Fernandez answering back three and a half minutes later.

With neither team able to find the net in regulation, the game entered extra minutes, followed by a shootout.

It took nine shooters from each team to determine a winner, with Predators’ veteran Reese Bisci netting Niagara’s lone shootout goal — but it would not be enough.

“We did everything we could possibly do — we really did. There was a lot of pride there and it was entertaining,” Taylor said.

“There were two posts, two posts in a shootout! It was a great game and if we have to end the year, this is a great way to end it,” he added.

“We played well and it was just unfortunate we didn’t put the puck in the net as much as we should have.”

The Predators finish the season in sixth place of eight in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division. Although a lower finish than in previous seasons for the team, Taylor said he was not disappointed.

“My expectations were a lot higher than what we finished and the record wasn’t the best,” he said, noting the team fought through injuries and a short bench for parts of the year.

“There’s been a lot of adversity all year, I think maybe two times we might have had a full lineup. Missing guys, not having (ace goalie Zane Clausen) for probably two months and we went through some stretches where we lost some games and it was tough because if we had a goaltender in net like Zane, the confidence might have been there.”

Looking toward next season, Taylor expects some significant changes, in particular with the line-up as seven 21-year-old players will be too old and unable to return.

“There are a couple guys who’ve been here for a while with us and now it’s time for the new blood to come in,” he said.

“There are changes that are going to be in the works and different things are going to be happening, but we’re looking forward to a new start,” he said.

Crowds are usually small and he hopes for more fan support “because it’s exciting hockey, it’s good hockey.”

The league is also an opportunity for some players to continue their careers.

As for his current roster, Taylor wished them the well. 

“I hope the best for everyone. I hope everyone appreciates what the organization did for the players and I hope that when they look back, they have a positive outlook on how the season went.”

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