Playing in his first game with the Niagara Predators, former Pelham Panther Cameron Savoie teamed up with linemates Riley Ellis and Declan Fogarty to lead the way in a 3–1 win over the Windsor Aces at home Friday.
With an assist from Ellis, Fogarty scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the first period. Fogarty also assisted on Savoie’s insurance marker 15 seconds into the third period as the Preds avenged last Sunday’s 3–1 loss on Windsor’s home ice. Jaroslav Dohnal also scored for Niagara.
“We moved a couple things around,” head coach Kevin Taylor told The Local about his new number one line for the game. “He plays really well with Declan. And I thought having Riley out there gives a little of a different dynamic, where he can run the corners and get the puck out to those guys.”
“All week in practice we were just going hard,” a clearly pleased Savoie said after the game. “Declan is one of my best friends, I’ve known him since I was four years old. We worked hard to get our chemistry back to the way it was before.”
Savoie and Fogarty played together on the Niagara North Stars AAA U18 team in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Since then, their paths had diverged through different postings in the Greater Ontario Junior B Hockey League (GOJHL), Fogarty with Thorold and Welland, Savoie with Pelham.
In addition to playing with his best friend, the 20-year-old Savoie joins a GMHL team that includes his 18-year-old brother, Nick, with whom he shared a few shifts on Friday night in Virgil.
“I haven’t played with him since high school hockey (at Governor Simcoe Secondary),” said Cameron. “We have three pairs of brothers on this team (Warren and Will Krogman and Cole and Riley Ellis are the other pairs). It’s fun to play hockey with three sets of brothers. There’s great camaraderie.”
Taylor was happy with Friday’s win, though not ready to celebrate with great enthusiasm.
“We got the win, that’s all that matters, really,” said an even-keeled head coach. “At the end of the day, it’s two points. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it moves us up a bit in the standings.”
There was one particular part of the Preds’ game that gave Taylor concern. With a 2–0 lead, Niagara squandered three power play opportunities by taking penalties of their own while holding the man advantage. Two of those came while the Aces had players sitting out five-minute majors.
“One (of our penalties) was off a faceoff, a high stick,” lamented Taylor. “It seems like when we get the power play, we get more excited. It should be a time when we rest, take our time and control the game. Instead we rush and try to get a quick goal. It doesn’t matter whether you get the goal in the first 10 seconds or the last.”
The Predators did manage to shut down the league’s leading goal scorer, Samuel Senft. That’s something they had yet to do this season; in three prior games against Niagara, the five-foot-ten, 216-pound 21-year-old from Germany has netted six of his 24 goals. His only appearance on Friday’s score sheet was for three penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct assessed at the end of the second period.a
“He’s a good player,” acknowledged Taylor, “but he took himself out of the game today. He’s a big body. He’s huge. Our guys are just coming to realize they just have to get in his way. I know he got two goals last week, but he really didn’t do much. We’re not letting him shoot as much as he was.”
Windsor brought a skeleton crew again to Virgil’s Meridian Credit Union Arena; only 10 skaters and three goalies made the journey. At one point during the third period the Aces were down to just three players on the bench.
“Their whole team was tired,” Taylor said. “But you know, the top teams in this league walk through them. We’re not quite there yet. We play up against the better teams, and play down against others. We should have picked up two points against this team last weekend.”
Frustrated after their previous weekend’s mixed results (a masterfully-played 6–5 overtime loss to the first place Renegades followed by a tepid 3–1 loss to the eighth place Aces), Taylor and assistants Connor Shipton and Greg Wilson had an important meeting with their squad about team chemistry prior to Tuesday night’s practice.
Taylor is hoping a few personnel changes and the shuffling of the lines will provide a much needed spark for the remaining two-thirds of their GMHL campaign. The 3–1 win is the first step in the right direction.
“It was much more positive in the dressing room,” Taylor said. “It was all about getting them to take the game more seriously. It was a different atmosphere even on the bench.”
Despite the strong showing from the Ellis-Fogarty-Savoie line, Windsor goalie Justin Sheets, who faced 50 shots, was named the game’s first star. Cameron Huff manned the Niagara goal, stopping 26 of Windsor’s 27 attempts. He may get the start again this Friday with number one goalie Ryan Santini off at least three weeks with an injury suffered in practice this week.
“It was a fluke thing,” Taylor explained. “He went to make a poke check and his shoulder just sort of fell out. We can’t have Ryan out of the lineup for a long time.”
Serendipitously, Niagara has only four games on the schedule during Santini’s expected recovery time. He should be available for the last three or four games in December.
The St. George Ravens come to town this Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Predators will be trying to knot up the season series at two wins apiece that night.
“They’ve been playing well,” Taylor said of St. George. “We have to have a good week. It’s nice going into a long week with a win, I don’t have to sit and dwell on a loss. We will focus on getting everything perfected. We won’t introduce anything new, just get them to work on what they’ve been doing.”
And the newest Predator is excited about the possibilities while looking forward to his second game with the team.
“I love everything that we have going so far,” said Savoie. “Obviously there are still some things that we can work out. But with practices coming up, and a lot of guys that want to win and are dedicated to winning, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.”