Sloppy play and a lack of effort may have led to the Jr. A Niagara Predators’ 5-3 loss to the St. George Ravens last Friday night but the team’s short bench may be part of the issue too.
With just 18 skaters, head coach Kevin Taylor cannot afford to lose any of them, making for zero consequences for his players’ performance.
“It was terrible, it was godawful,” Taylor said after Friday night’s game.
“I just asked them to look at other rosters and if we had a full roster, with how you played tonight, would you be in the lineup on Monday?”
“The unfortunate part is I have no choice but to put those guys in so there’s no repercussions for how poorly they played. You look at other teams that have 32 guys, 25 guys and you can move them in and out of the lineup.”
St. George started out hot with an unassisted goal by Aidan Waite two minutes in. Niagara’s Thomas McGrath answered back four minutes later but the Predators could only hold the tie for 40 seconds.
A tally by Luca Fernandez at the 7:38 mark got the Predators back even.
The Ravens pulled ahead early in the second period thanks to two goals in the first four minutes but a successful penalty shot by Predator Nicholas Nicoletti gave the home team some hope.
Unfortunately, they were unable to put anything between the pipes for the whole second half of the game, unlike the Ravens who managed their fifth and final goal early in the final frame.
Friday was not Niagara’s first match-up against the Ravens, having beaten them 5-2 in the second game of their season, and Taylor does not think they should be too much for his team to handle.
“I would say we are the better team but tonight they just played better than us. They brought it to us and we just didn’t show up,” he said.
Friday’s performance also did not bode well for Niagara’s next game, which had them take on the much more skilled Durham Roadrunners on the road Monday night. After Friday’s performance, Taylor was uncertain how his team would make out against the tougher competition.
“Knowing that Durham is a much better team than the one they played tonight, maybe they’ll lift up their game. That’s what we’re hoping,” he said. “They just have to be ready.”
Monday’s game would ultimately go in Durham’s favour by a 3-1 margin.
Niagara’s Ethan Culp scored the Predators’ only goal seven minutes into the second period to tie the game but two more from Durham meant a week without wins. Even so, Taylor was much happier with the performance.
“Totally different team,” he said later. “If we played against St. George or any team like we did against Durham, we are going to be competing.
“We have a talented group of guys, they just don’t know how to win. Good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing well.”
Even with the disappointing weekend and a 2-4 record on the season, Taylor is not about to give up on his team. He just feels there is still a lot of work to do.
“We’re learning, we’re only six games in, there’s a lot of fresh guys on the team, young guys,” he said Tuesday. “There was a lot of positives out of last night.”
“It was a really good game. It was a disappointing loss but it’s a good move forward for us.”
An annual local tournament at the arenas in Virgil means no home games for Predators this week but they will be taking on the Tottenham Railers on the road this Saturday, Oct. 21.
The Predators are back in action at the Meridian Credit Union Arena next Friday, Oct. 27 when they play the Northumberland Stars for the first time this season.