Sunday morning the Niagara Jr. A Predators were in seventh place in their nine-team division. One win and less than 12 hours later and they had jumped into fourth.
Finishing the weekend with a 5-1 decision against the Streetsville Flyers on Sunday following a 6-1 win over the Tottenham Thunder on Friday night, the Predators rocketed up the ranks despite a 5-1 loss to the Bradford Bulls the Wednesday prior.
With 10 games left in the 2022-23 Greater Metro Hockey League regular season, the Predators still trail the top three teams by more than 20 points but now are neck-and-neck with the St. George Ravens and Tottenham Thunder to secure a fourth-place finish.
According to Predators head coach Kevin Taylor, the revelation has put the wind back in his team’s sails.
“It’s starting to unfold the way we want it to, so it’s looking good,” said Taylor. “They are a little more excited now. We’re winning, they’re supposed to be scoring and they’re scoring, so they’re happy about it.”
And score they did, racking up 11 goals over the weekend.
At home Friday night, Predators’ Cameron Savoie started things off two minutes in with the only goal of the first period. Reese Bisci and Jaroslav Dohnal followed suit, sandwiching Tottenham’s only tally of the night.
Dohnal netted his second 1:16 into the third, followed by Anthony Tropea four minutes later and Andras Kehl rounding things off with Niagara’s sixth and final goal with a little under 10 minutes left on the clock.
Taylor felt the win was important to boost team morale, something that was hurting since the Bradford loss.
“It’s a good way to get the confidence up for the guys as we’ve had games where we lost a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Wednesday I thought we played well, but we had a breakdown in the second period and there was some questionable calls and the team seemed to unravel there.”
Tyler Gearing managed Niagara’s only goal against Bradford but the Preds would completely flip the script against Streetsville on the road Sunday.
Another quick start saw Tropea making it onto the scoreboard two minutes in. He would add another in the second, combined with a marker from Savoie in response to Streetsville’s only tally of the game and a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Bisci upped the score to five halfway through the third with Nick Savoie finishing things off with 38 seconds to go.
Though Taylor admits he expected the win over Tottenham and – “barring a meltdown” – Streetsville, he said Sunday’s game still came with its own challenges.
“It’s tough because Streetsville’s had three wins and trying to get the guys to stay focused with the job, they see three wins and it’s like point night for them,” he said.
“It was close after one, we controlled the play but when you play a team like that you just expect to blow them out and I don’t want to blow out teams,” he added, noting it’s tough to keep the team focused when the score gets out of hand.
While Taylor said he is pleased with the way things are coming together for his team, he acknowledged this Friday’s game against the third-place Durham Roadrunners will be a challenge.
“It’ll be a good test for us. It’s a way for us to really see how we’re doing,” he said. “It’s a good test to see if we’ve improved.”
The Predators face-off against Durham at the Meridian Credit Union Arena this Friday, Jan. 20, at 7:30 p.m.