The Jr. A Niagara Predators have been keeping extra busy in the final weeks before Christmas break, and with two wins over the Tottenham Thunder, they have more than just the holidays to celebrate.
The Predators managed an 8-1 victory over The Thunder in Virgil last Friday night and followed it up with a 7-1 win the next day in Tottenham. While happy with the win, Predators head coach Kevin Taylor remained modest.
“They had a really good team at the start of the season but they’ve sold a lot of their players and we beat them good,” he said Friday night.
“But as a coach, we’ve been on both sides – and this is the first time we’ve been on this side of a score like that. And I didn’t want to run it up. I didn’t want to embarrass them because I know how it feels.”
The Press’ Anthony Tropea had a phenomenal two games, scoring seven goals in total.
In game one, Niagara’s first three goals came a little more than six minutes from Leo Savin just shy of two minutes into the game, Michael Santini after 5:50 and Nick Savoie at the 6:20 mark. Tottenham’s Alexis Herbert netted his team’s only goal five minutes later.
The Predators came out hungry in the second period with Tropea scoring short-handed 11 seconds in with what would be his first of four goals for the night. But Tropea was not alone in the slew of second-period tallies, with Nolan Wyers tacking on a fifth for Niagara.
A goalless third period meant an 8-1 finish for the Predators.
“I thought they were a little sloppy in the first period,” said Taylor.
“And then I gave it to them pretty good in between the periods and they came out flying in the second and guys that are goal scorers actually put the puck in the net, and that was nice.”
Things did not slow down the following evening in Tottenham. It was all Niagara for almost 40 minutes before the Thunder made it onto the scoreboard.
By then, Tropea had notched himself another three goals for the weekend, with Declan Fogarty, Tyler Gearing and Wyers rounding out the 6-1 difference going into the third.
Fogarty scored his second on a penalty shot in the third period and the Predators could officially put a second W down for the weekend.
“I think the team’s buying into what we’re trying to do,” said Taylor. “Now it’s just keeping the emotions in check and keeping them focused on what they’re doing.”
The two wins make up for a pair of losses earlier in the week during the Greater Metro Hockey League’s annual Showcase Tournament.
The two-day tournament was at the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls last Tuesday and Wednesday and saw teams from the league’s north division facing those in the south division.
Niagara suffered a 3-0 loss to the South Muskoka Shield on the first day but fought hard on Wednesday, falling just short of the West Nipissing Lynx for a 4-3 finish.
Niagara fell behind West Nipissing by two in the first period but Santini made it a one-goal game 4:42 into the second.
Two goals early in the third put the Lynx firmly in the lead but Maxwell Bredin answered back to narrow the gap. With just five seconds left on the clock, Reese Bisci made a hard push for his team’s third and final marker.
“I think we played well in both games. The problem yesterday is we didn’t do the little things to deserve to win. Today I thought we deserved to win,” Taylor said after the game.
“We made some mistakes that cost us but we played well. We were all over them. We deserved to win this game.”
With just one game left before the holiday break, and 15 left in the regular season, time is running out for the Predators.
But last weekend’s wins put them not far behind the fifth-place St. George Ravens and fourth-place Thunder.
“I think the guys are coming together and they’re seeing the importance of what I’m trying to teach them,” said Taylor.
“It’s taken a little longer than what it should have but again, there’s a lot of first-year guys, a lot of young guys and now they’re starting to see if they stick to the game plan how good it can be. They can win games like this.”
The Predators take on the Ravens this Friday, Dec. 23, at the Meridian Credit Union Arena. Puck drops for the last game of 2022 at 7:30 p.m.