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Sunday, December 4, 2022
Sports: No wins but a learning experience for Jr. A Predators
The Niagara Jr. A Predators lost two of two games on the weekend. KEVAN DOWD

The Niagara Jr. A Predators didn’t earn any points last weekend but head coach Kevin Taylor thinks the two losses served as teaching moments for the players – on and off the ice.

Friday night the Durham Roadrunners – last season’s South Division champs for the Greater Metro Hockey League – brought plenty of experience, talent and goals to the Meridian Credit Union Arena. But not a lot of class.

Besting Niagara 6-1, Durham’s players – both on and off the ice – seemed determined to remind everyone in the arena of their past success, something Taylor thinks got under his team’s skin.

“They didn’t have any respect,” he said. “Not just for the team they were playing but for the game itself. A lot of guys noticed.”

Durham started off the scoring early, with Niagara’s Reese Bisci netting the Predators’ only tally of the night to tie things up with 7:27 left in the first period.

A late-period marker put Durham ahead after 20 minutes but four goals in the second period gave them a solid lead. A strong third period for Niagara held them at six but the Predators failed to put anything else past Durham’s Gian-Marco Peyer.

“I thought the first period we played well, the first goal, I think was a high stick, the second was a mistake but we came out 2-1,” said Taylor.

“Then all the sudden we kind of laid back” but found their game in the third.

“The guys are not happy, the score is 6-1, yeah it’s a little tough but what I was more bothered by was the total disrespect. What was happening up in the stands, the pointing, the yapping.”

Taylor still feels Friday’s game against the much more experienced Roadrunners was a good learning experience for his young team.

“It’s a good learning experience for the team. They were in the championships for the league, they’re the cream of the crop for the division and that’s what we have to strive to be.”

Although things didn’t improve on the scoreboard during Sunday’s 5-3 road loss to the St. George Ravens, Taylor was happy.

“It was a close game. We didn’t play great, but it was a good educational game,” he said.

“There was a lot of action back and forth, the goalies made a lot of nice saves. There wasn’t any stupidity. It was just two teams that were battling really hard to win.”

St. George had a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period but Niagara’s Jaroslav Dohnal closed the gap with the only second period goal.

The Predators came back strong in the third period, jumping to a 3-2 lead in the first five minutes thanks to Anthony Tropea and Nolan Wyers. But it was all St. George from there with three goals in the last 11 minutes.

“They didn’t make any major mistakes. They didn’t do anything wrong,” said Taylor.

“It was just a game with minor mistakes and St. George capitalized on ours and we capitalized on theirs, and then St. George got a lucky bounce on their fourth goal and it just sort of deflated us with five minutes left.”

It doesn’t get any easier for Niagara. The team has a tough weekend ahead, Friday night taking on the undefeated North York Renegades, who beat Durham 4-1 last Sunday.

The the Press head to Oshawa on Monday for a second match versus the Roadrunners.

While Taylor knows his players have not forgotten their last game with Durham, he said they have put it behind them. He also takes pride in his team not behaving in the same manner.

“When we go into Durham on the 17th, I’m sure they’ll be remembering the guys screaming and yelling and being disrespectful. But for a young bunch of kids, they carry themselves really well. And that’s one of things I try to teach, is to be decent human beings on and off the ice.”

But first comes North York. Acknowledging his team’s mostly small stature, Taylor hopes the Predators can capitalize on their speed.

But with teams like Durham successfully clogging up the neutral zone, the Predators have struggled to get their feet going.

“Our biggest asset is our speed but it also hampers us because we’re not big enough to compete against a lot of teams right now. So we have to learn to use our size and our speed to our advantage.”

The Predators play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Meridian Credit Union Arena. The team’s food drive with Newark Neighbours continues this weekend so fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable goods.