Hometown player to suit up for Preds Friday
September 13, 2023
  « Back « Previous Next »

Mike Balsom

NOTL native Josh Frena is excited to join the Niagara Predators this season


When the Niagara Predators take to the Meridian Credit Union Arena to begin their Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League (GMHL) season this Friday, there will be a ‘hometown hero’ wearing the blue and gold. 

Josh Frena played his final game for the Under-18 NOTL Wolves on that very same surface in March  2020. That’s when the pandemic hit, cancelling the remainder of the hockey season. 


Since then the 21-year-old East and West Line resident has been concentrating on his studies in sports management at Niagara College, only stepping onto the ice periodically with his older brother Michael to play in the local Wallbangers League. 

But now he has finished his co-op placement handling social media for the former Junior B Niagara Falls Canucks, and graduated from his college program, he’s ready to get back to the game he loves, with the hope of turning the experience into an opportunity to catch on at a Division III NCAA school or with a team in Europe. 

Frena is no stranger to the Predators, by the way, having handled video-graphy duties sporadically beside his brother Michael, who was the team’s play-by-play announcer for their first two seasons. 

“I saw their tryouts listed on Instagram,” Josh tells The Local, “and I was planning to take a year off before looking for work. I decided to give it a try at their first open camp. I had a couple  of good skates and they asked me to come back to their second camp. They saw some good things in me and asked me to stick around.”

The 6’5”, 160 pound Frena brings some much needed height to the Predators’ roster. But that wasn’t necessarily what impressed the team’s head coach, Kevin Taylor. 


“He has some raw talent,” Taylor says. “He works really hard. From the first skate to our most recent practice his improvement has been phenomenal. He’s playing with some better players than he has before, and that forces him to work harder.”

Frena admits he was a bit rusty his first couple of sessions, having not really played for three years. With each successive practice he began to feel more comfortable, and was able to fit in with the rest of the team both on the ice and in the locker room. 

The Eden High School and Crossroads graduate says he brings a strong hockey IQ to the team. 

“I’ve always had a good eye and a good sense of where to be on the ice,” explains the right-handed shooter. “I’m a head-up kind of player, always looking for the open man. And I think my height is an advantage. With the Wolves I brought a strong presence in front of the net.”

Frena is looking forward to the chance to play Junior A hockey right in his hometown. 

“It’s going to feel pretty cool to play in my home arena,” he enthuses about this Friday’s home opener. “It’s great to get back to the excitement of game day, showing up to the arena, seeing the boys, all the camaraderie with the coaches, and everyone in town.”

Frena’s only disappointment is that his older brother has stepped away from the booth to take a new position at Niagara Falls Genesis. 


“It would have been pretty cool to hear what he would have said about me scoring a goal or making some good plays,” he laughs. “It was a tough choice for him to make.”

As for Friday night, Taylor isn’t making any predictions about their first game against the Tottenham Railers. But he knows he has a deeper team in terms of talent than 2022-2023’s fourth place finishers. 

“We’re still adding pieces, and we don’t have as many guys yet,” Taylor says. “We’ve replaced players who aren’t returning with some from other teams who may not have fit in with other systems but will play an important role in ours.”

Taylor adds that the focus thus far has been primarily on the back end, ensuring the team has some key players minding the net and protecting their goaltenders.

“That will be our strength to start the season,” he says. “I’m counting on our defence to score more goals this season, too. We only had 26 from them last season, I’d like to see at least 40 to 50 from the blueline this year. And when we get the players that we want up front, we’ll be able to let the defencemen play roles that are more defined, that they’re more comfortable in.”

Key to the team’s success will be returning players such as defencemen Logan Baillie and Nick Savoie as well as forward Reese Bisci. Baillie and Bisci are in their third year with the Preds. 

“I’m expecting big things out of Bisci this year because it’s his last year,” Taylor says of the 21-year-old who had 12 goals and 17 assists in 40 games last season. “We’re excited to have him back. And it will be interesting to see how Zane Clausen follows up his goalie-of-the-year season, too. 

The 6’4” Clausen will share time in goal with Georgii Kodzaev, a 19-year-old from Russia who was on the roster last year but never played a game as visa problems held him from leaving his country. He arrived in Canada last week, and fellow “Russian, 6’3” forward Georgi Kholmovsky, is expected to arrive on Sept. 27. 

“And I’m really looking forward to seeing our two Americans playing against other players at this level,” Taylor says. “Dylan Denning (a 20-year-old defenceman from Buffalo) has really elevated his game. He’s a great guy in the room, too. He has so much skill. And there’s Connor Weiskerger (from Buffalo) too.”

The Predators open the season at home Friday, Sept.15 against Tottenham, now rebranded as the Railers after an ownership change. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door at $10 for adults and $8 for seniors.