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Saturday, April 13, 2024
Sports: Predators face must-win playoff game at home
The Predators lost 3-0 to North York in their season finale and are down 1-0 in their playoff series. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

It’s do or die now for the Niagara Jr. A Predators.

After finishing their regular season last Friday night with a 3-0 loss to the first-place North York Renegades and posting a season record of 17-21-4-0, the Predators launched their best-of-three preliminary playoff round on Monday.

It didn’t go as head coach Kevin Taylor hoped.

The Predators came up short on the road against the Durham Roadrunners, losing 4-1 in Oshawa.

While Niagara outshot the Roadrunners 30-25 and never let their opponents run away with it, Shane Kaplan’s lone goal 16 minutes into the last period was too little and too late for his team to stage any sort of a comeback.

There’s hope for the Predators, though, as they had some success against Durham during the regular season.

While Niagara finished nine points and three spots behind the Roadrunners, Durham has struggled to beat the Predators in the past and lost to them twice.

They host the Roadrunners this Friday, Feb. 23 at the Meridian Credit Union Arena in Virgil. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. It’s a must-win game.

With all regular-season games wrapped up in their conference, the Predators officially finished sixth of eight in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division. Durham was third.

Heading into game 1 of the playoffs, Taylor was confident, despite being shut out by North York in their season finale.

Strong team defence and a stellar performance by all-star netminder Zane Clausen, who faced 72 shots, had the coach hoping his team could keep things rolling in the playoffs against Durham.

“I’m happy with the way they played (against North York). I’m happy with what they did tonight, I just wish we had a couple more shots on net,” he said, adding his team now needs to focus on Durham.

“I think we match up very well against them. Zane’s right on the ball right now, so hopefully we can ride that right into the playoffs.”

Friday’s season finale was scoreless after 20 minutes but two goals by North York’s Nikolai Salov in the second period put the Renegades up by two going into the third.

Still unable to produce, Niagara pulled Clausen for the extra man, costing them an empty-netter. But it was three blocked-shots in the Predators’ zone that had Taylor shrugging off North York’s final tally.

“They had to work for that empty net goal. I felt like that last shift there was a lot of intensity. I’m hoping that continues into the next three games as well,” said Taylor.

“I thought they worked hard for it and if they can show that intensity through the entire game. I think they’ll be OK.”

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