Stronger focus this year on signing Niagara players and developing them, team says
Special to The Lake Report
The Niagara Predators are back in action and hoping to build on last year’s success as they begin their second season in Virgil.
Hitting home ice for the first time this season at the Meridian Credit Union Arena, the Predators pulled off a 6-3 win over the Northumberland Stars last Friday night.
It was their second game of the 2022-2023 Greater Metro Jr. A Hockey League season, following a 2-1 road loss to the St. George Ravens on Sept. 18.
“The guys were more settled down tonight,” said new head coach Kevin Taylor.
“We capitalized on our chances. I thought we had a lot of chances against St. George, we just never capitalized on them.”
While the Northumberland Stars were on the scoreboard first a little more than six minutes in, Niagara’s Nolan Wyers evened things out just one minute after.
And two minutes into the second period Niagara’s Anthony Tropea took advantage of a Stars’ penalty to put his team in the lead.
Scoring was all Niagara for the rest of the period with tallies from Predators’ Reese Bisci and Wais Ayubi, for a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Two minutes into the third Northumberland came alive with Thomas Murphy netting his team’s second of the night.
But with additional early goals by Bisci and Riley, a marker for the Stars midway through the last period was not enough to save them from a 6-3 finish.
“Tonight, they were really battling, even on the rebounds,” said Taylor.
“They weren’t giving up on pucks and I think that’s something they’re starting to realise and we’re gaining a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Along with a new season and coach, vice-president Andrew Ferlatte is hoping to bring some fresh ideas to the marketing side of the team this season.
Friday’s game featured raffles for team merchandise and season tickets, noise makers given out to fans, a live band and even a characteristic “eagle cry” played over the loud speakers.
“The one thing we missed out on last year – I was working more behind the scenes – was being able to build and establish a brand in an already saturated hockey market,” said Ferlatte.
“Being able to use a small town like Niagara-on-the-Lake and be more active within the community and having more events to bring more people here is really important because if you have a community behind you it makes the program more popular.”
Meanwhile on the ice, Ferlatte said the plan for building the Predators this season is to start with young players and develop their game through the team.
“The goal is to have a young team, a local team and develop them. So, our process is to establish and get them to where they want to be and hopefully bring in a championship team every year,” he said.
“But our primary focus is to develop,” Ferlatte said. “So one thing that’s a little different this year when compared to last year is you see a lot more younger players and local, instead of the Europeans.”
The team’s current roster on the league website lists 17 players, with 13 from around Niagara, including Wyers and Maxwell Bredin, both from NOTL.
Taylor has similar developmental plans for the team.
“It’s about building a program,” he said. “Trying to build with what we have and what’s going to come in.”
As far as on-ice strategy, he said the biggest thing he wants is to use his defence more than he feels other teams do.
“Let’s not just have a game of ping-pong. We want the defence to control the play in the neutral zone and let our offence use their skates.”
The Predators play again this Friday night at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil against the Windsor Aces. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.