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Niagara Falls
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Sports: Losing skid drops Predators to second-last place
Predators help out goalie Zane Clausen during their only win last week, a 5-4 decision over Tottenham at home. KEVAN DOWD

Despite a promising start, the Jr. A Niagara Predators struggled to produce in their first week of 2024, finishing four straight games with just one win.

With 10 games left in the season and the Predators sitting in second-last place in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division, they cannot afford many more losses.

Last Friday, Niagara came out on top 5-4 against the Tottenham Railers.

The home-ice win suggested good things for the rest of the weekend but unfortunately, the Predators would lose to the North York Renegades 4-1 on Saturday, 7-6 to the last-place Toronto Flyers on Sunday, and 6-2 to the Durham Roadrunners on Monday.

Spirits were up Friday night, with head coach Kevin Taylor hopeful his team could keep the wins coming.

“It was a good win. It was a character win,” he said afterward.

“What was nice, though, was the best player on our team was the best player in the game and that’s what we’ve been hoping for.”

Niagara’s Declan Fogarty started off scoring for the night 15 minutes into the game, with a goal from Tottenham tying things up going into the second. The Railers took a lead 1:31 into the period, but Georgy Kholmovsky got the equalizer for Niagara 17 minutes later.

Josh Frena and Luca Fernandez widened the gap by two for Niagara only for Tottenham to rally and net a pair of their own. Fernandez notched his second of the night at 16:34, with the Predators holding the lead until the final buzzer.

Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend did not live up to expectations, starting with the 4-1 loss to the first-place North York Renegades the next day.

The game began well for the Predators, with no goals until the 8:38 mark of the second period, when three top players for the Renegades quickly put their team ahead by four.

Nick Savoie managed Niagara’s only goal of the night halfway through the last period.

“Saturday, we had a decent game against North York, great first period, average second period and a decent third period but the second period hurt us,” said Taylor.

“The night before kind of caught up with them and we let them take control of the game. And third period we went back to doing what was successful in the first period and we won the period, which was nice.”

In Sunday’s high-scoring game, Niagara was up by two by the end of the first with markers from Rhys Jones, Isaac Locker and a pair from Fogarty.

Toronto came back in the second, tying things up with two unanswered goals. Kholmovsky put his team back out front, only for them to fall behind by two, with a final tally from Fernandez in the last minute not cutting it.

Taylor felt his team’s 49 minutes in penalties was the biggest contributor to the game’s outcome.

“Sunday, we took way too many penalties,” he said. “I thought we were going to come out with the win anyway and it just didn’t happen.”

The final game of the weekend – and third on the road – saw goals from Niagara’s Nolan Wyers halfway through the game and Kholmovsky early in the third. But it still left the Predators four shy of Durham.

Taylor blames fatigue.

“They were dead. They were just tired,” he said. “You have to be on your best game to play those top teams anyways, and it’s bad if everyone’s not rested well and ready to go.”

The final 10-game stretch of the season will see them mostly facing teams they have only played once or twice since September. Taylor thinks this could be a positive.

“They’re teams we can compete with and we should do well against them,” he said.

“They’re definitely winnable games and we have to win against them. We still have a very good chance of winning fourth place. We just have to play better and smarter and battle a little bit more.”

The Predators take on the Northumberland Stars this Friday, Jan. 12 at the Meridian Credit Union Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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