Hexagon Telford Tigers travelled to Solihull on Saturday to take on bottom of the table Leeds Chiefs.
The game was being played at the Hobbs Moat Ice Rink in Solihull as Leeds newly built arena is still not ready for ice hockey games, meaning the Yorkshire team have to play their “home” games away from Leeds.
Tigers came into the game in a fantastic position, top of the league by seven points and with a game in hand over closest rivals Swindon Wildcats. The team were on a terrific run of form, with only one defeat in the last nine games.
Tigers were still without Jonathan Weaver, Dan Mitchell and Ollie Lord.
Telford started with Brad Day in goal, Leeds started with Sam Gospel.
Tigers made a bright start to the game and were threatening the Leeds goal at every opportunity. The early pressure paid off when Brandon Whistle held the puck patiently in the Leeds defensive zone and waited for Scott McKenzie to skate into position. McKenzie showed all his experience to place a perfect wrist shot low past Gospel to open the scoring. However, Tigers power play was struggling as an opportunity passed them by when Luke Boothroyd was called for hooking. Tigers could not get set and spent most of the time in the neutral zone, with Leeds going close with a short handed chance.
Tigers extended their lead in the twelfth minute, with a second goal. Andy McKinney forced a good save from Gospel but Ross Kennedy was first to the rebound and hammered home a shot from point blank range.
Leeds pulled a goal back late in the period when on the power play, after Ricky Plant had been called for tripping. Sam Zajac’s harmless shot was deflected past Day in the Tigers’ goal by a defender’s skate, which totally wrong footed Day, giving him no chance to make the save.
Florian forced a terrific glove save from Gospel as the period ended with Tigers heading to the break with a narrow lead.
Tigers opened the second period in sluggish fashion and took a number of penalties that disrupted the flow of their game. Joe Aston was called for roughing, followed by Corey Goodison for holding, Leeds scored the equaliser as the second penalty expired, but before Tigers could get back to full strength. Lewis Baldwin shooting over the glove of Day to draw the sides level.
Conceding the goal seemed to spring Tigers into life as they piled the pressure on Gospel, Jason Silverthorn set up Dominik Florian but Gospel made a terrific save. Tigers regained the lead late in the period. Goodison hammered a slap shot in on goal and McKenzie, who was stood in front of Gospel, got the faintest of touches to the puck to divert it into the net, putting Telford 3-2 ahead.
In the third period Tigers again started sluggishly but gradually found their feet and added a fourth goal in the 47th minute, with a carbon copy of the first goal. Whistle waiting to pass and picking out the onrushing McKinney, who controlled the puck and beat Gospel at his near post.
Tigers saw out the rest of the game and secured the two points to maintain top spot in the league.
Final Score: Leeds Chiefs 2 Hexagon Telford Tigers 4.
Scorers: Scott McKenzie (2), Ross Kennedy and Andy McKinney.
Man of the match: Brad Day.
After the game Head Coach, Tom Watkins commented, “Tonight’s game was a hard test, we were up against a hard working team, who despite their lack of numbers, worked tirelessly. It’s a good two points on the road tonight for us. There was nothing flash about our performance, we just got the job done, which is what matters. We had great support from the Tigers’ fans this evening, which is always appreciated.”