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Niagara Falls
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Sports: Predators fight hard but drop two more games
The Predators put up a fight against Durham last Friday night but their third-period comeback fell short as they lost 3-2. KEVAN DOWD

With just two games to go before the Christmas break, the Jr. A Niagara Predators have been fighting hard but just can’t seem to consistently win the battles.

A couple of wins last week – including one against the third-place Durham Roadrunners – showed some potential for a strong finish to 2023, but the Predators could not hold things together over the weekend.

Despite a hard fight, Niagara lost 3-2 to the Roadrunners last Friday night at home, before a 5-1 loss to the North York Renegades two days later.

Though Predators head coach Kevin Taylor said he is obviously disappointed with the outcome of Friday’s game, he was at least happy with his team’s overall performance.

“I was happy with how they played. They’re just not playing how we asked them to play for the full 60 minutes,” said Taylor. “This was a game we could have won.”

The game was scoreless for almost 33 minutes before Durham netted the only goal of the second period. They pulled ahead by two early in the third, a lead they held until Nolan Wyers got Niagara’s first at the 15:49 mark.

Durham scored again two minutes later making all seem lost until Rhys Jones put his team back in the game with 30 seconds to go. Unfortunately, Niagara could not manage a tying goal and had to stomach a tough loss.

Once again, Taylor felt individualism was his team’s undoing, stressing their need to follow a gameplan he feels works when his team properly executes it.

“I think we outplayed them. I think we deserved to win,” he said, though admitting they made some mistakes.

“We didn’t do what we were told,” he said. “We asked them to dump the puck in, every time they dumped the puck in, we controlled the game.”

“When we started trying to do things ourselves and take the puck in ourselves, we isolate our own guys and we don’t have support. There’s no puck support, the guys are all by themselves trying to dance around three guys and they lose the puck.”

Although the final 5-1 score of Sunday night’s game against the Renegades does not do the Predators any favours, Taylor feels the wide margin just comes down to a poor start for his team.

“We came out flat. They got three on us right away, then we settled down and they played a pretty good game,” he said. “North York came out ready to play and excited to be there and we just sort of showed up.”

North York took a three-goal lead in the first 11 minutes, with a fourth coming two minutes after the first intermission. Nicolas Nicoletti got Niagara’s only marker after 37 minutes, with the Renegades adding one more tally in the last period.

In addition to injuries, Taylor thinks a big challenge for his team has been a stretch of games against top-notch teams like Durham and North York.

And with their last two games of the season against the second-place Bradford Bulls, things are not looking to get any easier – especially since this will be the first time they have played the Bulls this season.

They face Bradford on the road tonight, Dec. 20.

“I don’t know what to expect from them,” said Taylor. “They’re a good team, they’re challenging for the top spot right now, so we’ll see how the guys prepare themselves.”

This Friday’s game will be the Predators’ last before the Christmas break, a period where Taylor hopes his team can recover physically and mentally knowing that after New Year’s their schedule is a bit more forgiving.

The bulk of their games in 2024 will be against mid- and lower-tier teams, with just a few games left against North York and Durham.

“The teams are a little more balanced this year, so even though there is not as many top teams left on our schedule, we still have a tough schedule and there is still a lot of important games ahead.”

However, he still stressed that injuries have hurt his team since the beginning of the season.

“I think maybe one game all year we’ve had a full lineup – and that’s tough. Every game there’s a key piece missing,” often one of their top six players.

 “It’s kind of just a mishmash of issues. We’re looking forward to Christmas break just to regroup and maybe re-energize the team.”

“We’re losing a lot of battles but hopefully at the end we’ll come out with a stronger, more competitive team for the playoffs.”

The Predators play their last game of 2023 against the Bradford Bulls this Friday, Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Meridian Credit Union Arena.



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