Hexagon Telford Tigers travelled to Bristol on Saturday for a crucial game against the Pitbulls.
With Tigers just two points ahead of their hosts in the league standings this was a game where both teams were desperate to win.
The last game between the teams saw Bristol win 9-1 in Telford, a game that was by far Tigers’ worst performance of the season.
Tigers were still without Jonathan Weaver and Ricky Plant and long term absentees Jason Silverthorn and Nick Oliver.
Telford made a terrific start to the game and scored twice in the opening five minutes. Scott McKenzie and Fin Howells combined to set up Vladimir Luka to give Tigers the lead. Then a minute later Rory Herrman added a second goal with a superb wrist shot that gave Bristol netminder Will Kerlin no chance.
But, Bristol hit back with two goals of their own. Jay Warren was unmarked in front of goal and scored with ease. Ed Bradley scored a second for Bristol shortly after when Tigers’ defence allowed him a free run at goal.
Tigers regained the lead in the final minute of the period. A shot from McKenzie was blocked and fell kindly for Herrman who slammed it past Kerlin.
Bristol were by far the better team in the second period and were level early on. Reece Kelly took advantage of the open space left by Tigers’ defence and beat Brad Day with an excellent finish. A minute later Bristol were ahead. Caly Robertson deflected Sean Morris’ shot past Day to give the Pitbulls their first lead of the game.
Things could have been worse for Telford, as Bristol thought they had scored again but the goal was disallowed for netminder interference.
Early in the third period, Bristol added a fifth goal, Robertson taking advantage of a poor turnover in the Tigers’ defensive zone and shooting low past Day.
The goal seemed to wake Telford up as within a minute they had scored twice and were level. Howells broke in on the Bristol goal and hit a magnificent wrist shot past Kerlin who was expecting Howells to pass to the unmarked Luka. Herrman then equalised with a shot from a tight angle that deceived Kerlin. The goal saw Herrman complete his hat trick and was his fourth goal in three games since joining the Tigers.
With the sides level and all the momentum with Telford it was disappointing that the next goal was scored by Bristol and was avoidable. Poor marking once again allowed Warren a free shot at goal and the Bristol forward took full advantage of the time and space afforded to him by lifting a back handed shot over Day’s shoulder to put Bristol ahead again.
With the game entering the final minute Tigers pulled Brad Day from the goal to add an extra attacker. But this just allowed former Tigers player Bayley Harewood an empty net goal in the dying seconds of the game to seal the victory for the Pitbulls.
Tigers’ form has not improved with the latest defeat meaning they have only won two of their last eighteen games.
Final Score: Bristol Pitbulls 7 Hexagon Telford Tigers 5.
Scorers: Rory Herrman (3), Fin Howells and Vladimir Luka.
Man of the match: Rory Herrman.
After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins commented, “As a team we need to learn how to win, what it takes to win. We need to see more composure on the puck.
“We scored five on the road today and we should be winning the hockey game and if we play all game as hard as we did in the third period we win. But our first and second period performance just wasn’t good enough, we gave up some soft goals. We didn’t pick up sticks and box out their forwards for two goals and the next two goals we allow their player to walk in off the wall, inside the dots uncontested and to take pucks to the net.”