With multiple strategies falling through for the Jr. A Niagara Predators, their only viable Plan B seems to be regaining their confidence.
A 9-0 road loss Saturday to the first-place North York Renegades puts Niagara in the seventh seat of the Greater Metro Hockey League’s south division, with a record of 5-7-1.
“I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t losing my mind, I was just disappointed,” Predators head coach Kevin Taylor said afterward.
“I think they’re lacking confidence right now. They’re playing number one teams and being beat pretty good by number one teams, whereas others are playing teams where they can build some confidence.”
“It’s still early in the season. I’m bothered by it but I’m trying not to panic.”
Despite 35 shots on goal by the Predators Saturday, Niagara’s young team failed to put anything past North York’s Christopher Thompson.
And while Niagara’s Ryan Santini stopped 41 attempts, two goals in the first period, six in the second and a final in the third made for a definitive defeat.
“You go to practice and everything’s working in practice. The power play’s clicking, they’re moving the puck and then all the sudden you get them into the game and they’re doing everything the opposite.”
For the time being, Taylor is keeping things modest. Hoping for a third-place finish but admitting fourth is more likely, he thinks experience and building confidence are key.
To do so, he thinks his team needs consecutive wins, not the “win-loss, win-loss” trend so far this season.
With Niagara’s most recent losses coming against top-tier opponents, Taylor is looking forward to a more “tame” schedule with the Predators facing more evenly matched opponents to help with their confidence.
But first comes one more toe-to-toe with the Renegades in Virgil this Friday, something Taylor is spending all week preparing his skaters for.
“We just have a good week of practices, to go look at what we’ve done” and try to boost the team’s confidence.
After the rematch with North York, “the next two games are against Windsor, which is a bonus and I think we can build some confidence.”
Windsor sits below Niagara in the standings.
In the face of defeat, Taylor still looks to the positives.
“It’s better to lose these kinds of games now than later in the season when it can completely demoralize the team. This is just a kick in the butt for confidence,” he said.
“We need to get them back in it and look towards competing on Friday. Of course, we want to win but really it’s about wanting to show up and compete.”
The Predators’ host North York at the Meridian Credit Union Arena Friday at 7:30 p.m.