Another tough weekend led to a pair of losses for the Jr. A Niagara Predators.
Facing the undefeated North York Renegades in Virgil Friday night, the inexperienced Predators held their own but lost 5-3.
Head coach Kevin Taylor credits rookie goalie Cameron Huff with keeping the score close but feels a lax second period cost his team the game.
“I thought our goaltender played phenomenal tonight, especially for his first game. He did a great job, kept us in it and gave us a chance to win,” said Taylor.
“But we have to play a full 60 minutes for us to be able to win.”
Things were close for more than 20 minutes with just a single goal for North York in the first period. But two second-period tallies for the Renegades saw Niagara down three going into the last period.
Things continued to look grim with a fourth for the Renegades 4:32 into the third but something seemed to click on the Predators’ bench.
Not 30 seconds later Anthony Tropea opened the scoring for Niagara, Reese Bisci netted another for his team 30 seconds after that and a deuce for Tropea made for a one-goal difference with just 46 seconds left on the clock.
It wouldn’t prove enough for the young team, with an empty-netter for North York sealing the deal with seven seconds to go.
Taylor said his team was still in high-spirits and optimistic for their road game three days later against the Durham Roadrunners who beat them 6-1 a week earlier in Virgil.
He thought his team’s new strategy of giving themselves space to skate really came through Friday night and would be a difference-maker Monday.
They’re starting to dump the puck in now, which had their guys backing out “so then we could skate a little bit more. It gave us a little more room.”
“I thought they finished their checks a lot more tonight, which is something we focused on, and then in the third period we came out and made it a game.”
Monday night’s road game also didn’t pan out for the Preds, with a 4-1 loss to Durham. But Taylor is OK with the loss, focusing more on the improvements.
“I thought we played well, we were going into the third period 2-1,” he said. “The boys played well, there was lots of effort, lots of effort. But with a team like that with experience winning we just have to work harder.”
“I’m not saying they outworked us by any means but because they have that experience on how to win, we have to be that much better.”
Durham made it onto the scoreboard five minutes in and netted another less than two minutes into the second period. Niagara’s Jaroslav Dohnal notched one for the Predators five minutes later to make it a 2-1 game after 40 minutes.
The Roadrunners widened the gap during the third, slipping two past Niagara’s Ryan Santini, who turned away another eight that period – for a game total of 44 saves – to hold things at 4-1.
“If you look at those 44 shots, they had at least 15 good scoring opportunities. He stood on his head,” Taylor said of Santini.
Even with the loss, Taylor said spirits are high in the dressing room.
“There is lots of optimism. If you look at the win-loss it’s disappointing. But I think we’re OK where we are.”
“We have to get this four-game skid out of our way and get back in the win column and continue doing the good things we’re doing and the biggest thing is just getting the power-play goals.”
The Predators have no home games this weekend, facing the Northumberland Stars Saturday and Streetsville Flyers on Sunday before heading back home for a Friday night game against the Bradford Bulls on Oct. 28.