Another win last Friday night keeps the Jr. A Niagara Predators’ record in the positives but the closeness of the game versus the 0-6-0 Toronto Flyers had the coaching staff concerned.
Though the 7-3 final looks good on paper, it belies the fact a four-goal, third-period comeback was needed to beat a last-place team.
“You can’t allow a team like this to score three goals on you,” said Predators head coach Kevin Taylor. “It should have been 7-1 or 7-0. So, I was upset with the way they played.”
Isaac Locker got the Predators on the scoreboard early just shy of four minutes in but things remained tight for nearly 20 minutes before Logan Baillie was able to manage his team’s second.
Another for Locker had things looking up but a three-goal rally by Toronto meant a tie game with just 11 minutes left in the third period.
A strong response from Niagara saw Reese Bisci book-ending Baillie’s second point of the night with two power-play goals, plus the Predators’ final tally from Dylan Denning with five minutes left on the clock.
Despite the late comeback, Taylor did not feel it should have been necessary against a team that sits last in the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division.
“That’s something to build on but it just sucks that we put ourselves in that position,” Taylor said about the third period scramble.
“We should be working on things but instead of working on things we’re just trying to survive.”
“You’re playing survival hockey instead of working on the little things. So, when we do play the top teams, you haven’t worked on those kinds of things against the weaker teams.”
With Niagara’s next opponents being the undefeated Durham Roadrunners, the Predators will officially be put to the test and with a week between each of their first four games, Taylor does not think their schedule is helping them.
That and his belief his team needs to be more disciplined, something he said he began to notice in practice between their two most recent games.
“What I saw on Wednesday was you blow the whistle, they’re not coming to you, they’re shooting the pucks, stickhandling, standing beside their buddy talking. And I felt like Thursday’s practice I spent more time saying ‘hey guys, pay attention.’”
“Those are things that are bothering me because it shows it’s an undisciplined team. It’s just been a long week in between the one game here. It’s tough when you have to go a whole week for the next game.”
The week-long gaps between their games so far is owed in part to the folding of the Windsor Aces, who the Predators were originally slated to play in week two.
Instead, this upcoming weekend will mark their first back-to-back games of the season, playing Durham Friday, followed by the Northumberland Stars the next day.
In that time, Taylor will have to figure out how to rein-in his players, but finding a balance of disciplining his team without resorting to just harsh words is a challenge.
“That’s the struggle with coaching now, is people tune you out, so you have to pick and choose,” he said.
“It’s tough because you’re constantly criticizing players and what they do. And they think they’re doing well and you have to fix it. The only time it benefits, is when you get a win,” he said.
“If you start yelling all the time and you don’t get a win, then they tune you out. I think we have a good bunch of guys here, but they’re young. They’re learning.”
The Predators face Durham – their toughest opponent yet – this Friday, Oct. 6 at the Meridian Credit Union Arena. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.