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Saturday, April 13, 2024
Sports: Predators lose three straight to end playoff run
The Predators’ Alexander Andrews challenges North York goalie Nicholas Lewicky in Friday’s 5-3 loss at home. Kevan Dowd

The final buzzer blew on the Jr. A Niagara Predators’ second season Sunday night.

Losing their third game in a best-of-five series to the first-place North York Renegades, the Predators hung up their jerseys for the 2022-23 season.

But where they couldn’t net goals, they at least met goals.

Starting the season off slowly, the Predators won just two back-to-back games from October through December and struggled to rise out of the bottom half of the standings.

But things took a positive turn in the new year, with the team stringing together enough consistent wins to finish fourth in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division.

Just a week ago, the Predators knocked out the fifth-place St. George Ravens in the best-of-three quarterfinals. However, their semi-final opponents – the skilled and seasoned Renegades – proved too much for Niagara. But that’s not to say they went down without a fight.

Starting with a 6-3 loss at home Friday night, the Predators hit the road for back-to-back games in North York, losing 5-3 Saturday and 7-2 Sunday.

But Predators head coach Kevin Taylor is far from disappointed in his young team.

“The 7-2 wasn’t indicative of the game,” said Taylor. “The boys played well but the series was over after we lost game two. It was a really heartbreaking loss for us.”

“They played well and showed a lot of heart and character and everyone was really proud of how they performed in the playoffs, down the stretch and throughout the year.”

Starting the season with a young, inexperienced team, Taylor set some modest goals early on but as the team struggled, some of them – even just where he hoped to finish in the standings – started to seem a little ambitious.

So, Taylor is certainly proud to see how his team finished the year. 

“I’m happy with how this team performed, the personal goals we had we met,” he said.

“We wanted to finish at least fourth, which we did. We wanted to get past at least the first round, which we did. There’s a good future for this organization and the program,” said Taylor.

“(Team president Robert Turnbull) is committed to what we’re doing here and I’m just very happy with the situation we’re in.”

Speaking to the future, Taylor is expecting a completely different showing from his team when he returns for a second season behind the Predators’ bench.

“You’ll have guys that are no longer rookies, you’ll have guys who know what their role will be going into next year and what my expectations are.”

Taylor feels his team has a very strong, experienced core of players lined up to return next year. Now, it is just a matter of finding additions that complement what they already have, he said.

This past season, “We only had four returning guys, traded one away, four new goalies and a new coaching staff – it was a brand-new team,” he said.

“Everybody was trying to get what they felt was their role on the team and there were no defining roles, so everybody just wanted to find their spot,” he said.

“It was a learning experience for everyone, including myself. Everybody performed to their ability and some exceeded it. We have a strong core and nucleus returning.”

“That will be a big difference going into next year.”

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