Hexagon Telford Tigers travelled to Wiltshire on Saturday night for a top of the table clash with league leaders Swindon Wildcats.
Tigers had some good news on the injury front with Ollie Lord able to return to the line up, although the team were still without the injured Jonathan Weaver, Ricky Plant, Joe Aston and Adam Taylor. Tigers knew from the start they would be facing a tough opponent, as Swindon were not only top of the league, but came into the game on the back of a 10 game winning streak and were unbeaten at home.
Tigers started Brad Day in goal with Swindon starting Renny Marr.
Tigers have had a bad habit of starting away games slowly in recent weeks and this continued in the opening 5 minutes of the game. Swindon had all the possession and Tigers found it difficult to get going. Having seen off the bad spell without conceding, and getting a foothold in the game with some simple hockey, Tigers took the lead. In the 12th minute of the game, Andy McKinney battled his way to the front of the net and beat Marr to give Tigers the opening goal of the contest. Tigers got to the end of the period without conceding and were the happier of the two teams at the break.
Tigers started the 2nd period by conceding an early goal. Swindon’s Jan Kostal scoring to draw the sides level just two minutes into the period. However, this Tigers team is a resolute one and within two minutes, they regained the lead. Thomas McKinnon scored with a slap shot that got past Marr and flew into the net. Three minutes later, Tigers extended their lead with a goal from Dan Mitchell. The Tigers’ forward used all his speed and skill to get to the puck first, ahead of a Swindon defender, and sent a high wrist shot past Marr for Tigers’ third goal. As the period entered the final two minutes, Swindon got a goal back through Tyler Plews to leave Tigers with a 3-2 lead going into the final period of the game.
The next goal in the contest arrived in the 44th minute and it would be the home team who scored it. Swindon player coach Aaron Nell finished off a move between Tomasz Malasinski and Max Birbraer to tie the game at 3-3. Swindon pressed for the 4th goal and Tigers had Day to thank for keeping the game level. The Tigers’ net minder making save after save to keep the Wildcats out.
Swindon were handed a great chance to take the lead with 5 minutes of the game remaining. Tigers’ Czech Republic import forward, Dominik Florian, was given an elbowing penalty handing a crucial man advantage to the Wildcats. Yet, despite the numerical advantage in players for Swindon, it would be Tigers who would score whilst short-handed. Scott McKenzie has been one of Tigers’ best and most consistent players this season so it was fitting that the Scottish forward would score the crucial goal in the contest. McKenzie beating Marr with a wrist shot after breaking out of the Tigers’ defensive zone and in on goal. Swindon pushed forward to try and get back into the game and again Day was called on to maintain the Tigers’ lead. The final minute of the game saw Swindon take Marr out of the net to gain an extra attacker. Tigers won the puck in their defensive zone and Florian and McKinnon got the puck to Corey Goodison, who sent the puck the length of the ice into the empty net, to seal a magnificent victory for the Shropshire team and their sizeable following of fans. The win closes the gap at the top of the league to just a single point, with Tigers having a game in hand on Swindon.
Final Score: Swindon Wildcats 3 Hexagon Telford Tigers 5.
Scorers: Andy McKinney, Thomas McKinnon, Dan Mitchell, Scott McKenzie and Corey Goodison.
Man of the match: Brad Day.
After the game Head Coach, Tom Watkins commented, “Wow that was tense, what a game of hockey! I thought Swindon came out really hard and had several good chances in the first; they competed extremely hard and pinned us in our zone for long stretches. No question, Brad Day kept us in it with his strongest display of the season and we managed to win the period. We then won the second period 2-1 and took a 1 goal lead into the third.
“Swindon really stepped up the pace in the third and were relentless on the forecheck, created turnovers and indecision in our defensive zone. We bent but didn’t break, then Scott McKenzie comes up with a clutch goal shorthanded, to give us the edge with about 5 minutes to go. That was huge. After being on our heels for most of the third period, to lead with 5 to go was testament to how hard the guys battled. They blocked shots, paid the price and put it all on the line. It was another total team performance.
“To pick up a win against a team who had a 10 game winning streak going is amazing. It was great to see so many Tigers fans make the trip tonight, they got behind the team and created a great atmosphere. I hope they all had a safe trip home.”