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Match Report: Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 – 4 Leeds Knights

Hexagon Telford Tigers returned to home ice after a close fought overtime loss to Milton Keynes the previous day.

Telford Tigers v Leeds Knights
Telford Tigers v Leeds Knights

Opponents Leeds Knights were in the position where a victory over Tigers coupled with Lightning dropping points in their game against Slough, would see the Yorkshire team win the league title.

Tigers remained without Corey Goodison but saw Deakan Fielder return after suspension.

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The opening period was fast paced and saw end to end attacking. Tigers scored first in the sixth minute. Fin Howells found Ricky Plant in space and Plant’s shot on the Leeds’ goal rebounded off the pads of Sam Gospel and landed perfectly for Scott McKenzie to tap home.

Tigers went close to a second goal when Rory Herrman hit the cross bar and was denied on a breakaway by Gospel.

As the period ended, Leeds equalised with Tigers rueing some poor defending. Rhodes Mitchell-King failed to clear the puck from the Tigers’ defensive zone and turned the puck over to Matt Haywood who had a free shot at goal and hit the puck high over Brad Day’s shoulder and into the net to draw the sides level.

Early in the second period, Tigers regained the lead. Rory Herrman sent Tom Carlon in on goal but his shot was saved by Gospel. Vladimir Luka was first to the rebound to fire home.

Leeds equalised with a power play goal after Herrman was called for slashing with Leeds’ retaliation on Herrman not called. Kieron Brown’s shot was tipped past Day by Haywood who was stood in front of the goal. Leeds drew level against the run of play.

A hooking penalty against Henry Adams would prove crucial as Leeds scored their second power play goal of the game. Cole Shudra’s pass across the ice was met with a powerful slap shot by Brown which flew low past Day into the bottom corner of the goal, with an agonising three seconds left on the penalty kill. Leeds headed off at the break ahead despite Telford’s strong performance.

Early in the third period, Leeds scored a fourth goal. A lobbed pass over the Telford defence allowed Haywood a breakaway and he finished with a wrist shot past Day to double the lead and complete his hat trick.

Leeds played sensible hockey for the remainder of the game, chipping the puck out of their zone and not allowing Tigers any offensive chances of note.

With Milton Keynes losing in Slough to Bees, the victory meant that Leeds were crowned National League Champions.

Final Score: Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 Leeds Knights 4.

Scorers: Scott McKenzie and Vladimir Luka.

Man of the match: Jake Price.

After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins, commented: “We had a good solid start to the game, we wanted to set the tone physically and I felt we really got that balance right. The focus was to try to grind Leeds down, wear them down physically, they’ve played a lot of hockey of late but credit to them they showed their quality.

“Good teams find a way to win and they did that tonight, that’s a quality of a team who are league champions and we are a team fighting for a playoff spot. The ability to make a difference, affect the game in the grey areas, in the key moments, they have that. it’s something we’ve been trying to find all year.

“The difference tonight was simply special teams, their power play got two goals where ours didn’t make a difference.

“Congratulations to all the players and staff of the Leeds Knights. Ryan (Aldridge) has a done a great job moulding that group and setting the standard all season. His players have bought in got on board and competed hard every night. A league championship is well deserved.”

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