It is not often that a coach can easily take a loss in stride, but that is exactly what Niagara Jr. A Predators head coach Kevin Taylor did on Friday night.
Despite a 3-2 loss at home to the Durham Roadrunners – who last season finished second in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division – Taylor and his team are feeling pretty good about themselves.
“It thought we outplayed them,” Taylor said afterward.
“They outshot us in the second period from what I understand but I didn’t think they were dominant by any means.”
Indeed, the Roadrunners outshot the Predators 23-13 in the second – and 50-32 on the game – but Durham only really dominated in the middle frame.
It also helped the Roadrunners fight back from a two-goal deficit and tie it up before the end of the second.
That early lead came courtesy Shane Kaplan, who managed a pair of first-period tallies. Meanwhile, it would take just shy of 32 minutes for Durham to make it onto the scoreboard, with their second goal coming seven minutes later.
But Durham’s Zach Burns would ultimately get the decision-maker shorthanded, slipping one past Zane Clausen on a breakaway with just under eight minutes left on the clock.
Clausen’s 47 stops on the night earned him first star honours.
“I told them, I thought they played well tonight, I’m happy with the way they played,” said Taylor. “I’m never going to be happy with a loss. I’m disappointed with the loss but happy with the performance.”
Taylor thinks the difference between his team and the Roadrunners is Durham “knows how to win,” mostly by capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes. But the closeness of the game has him feeling optimistic.
“We can compete with this team,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d win this game. I didn’t think it’d be even close and I think we outplayed them,” he said.
“It’s a disappointing loss, we deserved to win but when you play against teams that have the skill and have the willpower to win, they come out,” he said.
“We’re still young and we just don’t know how to do it yet. We were up two-nothing and we let them back in.”
Friday’s game was only Niagara’s fourth of the season in four weeks – mostly due to their only away game in that time being cancelled.
This weekend had promised to be their first case all season of playing back-to-back games, with a road game against the Northumberland Stars scheduled for last Saturday. But the hockey gods had other plans.
“The ice melted,” said Taylor.
A breakdown in Northumberland’s refrigeration system means the Predators will go yet another full week between games.
The long stretches have had a negative impact on the Predators’ discipline in the past, but Taylor thinks his team is improving in that aspect.
“It’s just trying to keep focused – this one week between games is just terrible,” he said. “But they worked hard and kept their focus this week.”
“I think it showed tonight. It was an entertaining game to watch. We just came out on the losing end of it.”
The Predators play their second game of the season against the St. George Ravens this Friday, Oct. 13, looking for a second win against them. Game time at the Meridian Credit Union Arena is 7:30 p.m.