Hexagon Telford Tigers returned to home ice after a disappointing defeat to Bristol the previous evening and faced an even tougher task taking on current league leaders Leeds Knights.
Tigers are on an awful run of form having won only two of the last eighteen games and were without a home win since early November. The defeat against Bristol coupled with Basingstoke’s win on the same evening had seen the three teams all level on twenty seven points and fighting for the final two playoff places.
Leeds started the brighter of the two teams and took the lead in the eighth minute. Harry Brooks’ shot was saved by Brad Day and the puck went behind the goal. Day lost sight of it and Cole Shudra passed the puck in front to Kieron Brown who shot into the open net.
Leeds almost scored again straight after the goal as Cole Shudra broke away but Day made a good glove save. Leeds then hit the post with a long range shot.
With Leeds in the ascendancy it was a surprise when Tigers levelled the game. A defensive turnover on the Leeds’ blue line allowed Tom Carlon to skate in on goal and shoot at Sam Gospel. Gospel made a good pad save but the puck rebounded to the right and Carlon was first to it and backhanded it into the open net to draw the sides level.
But Leeds continued to pressure the Tigers’ goal with a number of odd man breaks and caused Tigers’ defence problems. Therefore, it was no surprise when the visitors regained the lead. A needless interference penalty by Jake Price was called, allowing Leeds’ power play unit to score. Brown setting up Shudra for a shot from the slot that flew to Day’s left and into the net.
Leeds continued to dominate and went close a number of times. The pressure paid off just fifteen seconds from the end of the period. Archie Hazeldine found Zach Brooks in space and Brooks shot into the open net for Leeds’ third goal.
The second period was only a minute old when a lengthy delay occurred after one of the linesman – Scott Anstey, was injured after falling heavily and had to be stretchered off the ice. The game continued and Leeds scored a fourth goal shortly after the restart. A turnover by Corey Goodison led to Brooks shooting from the slot past Day to give Leeds a three goal lead.
Tigers were given hope when good battling by Deakan Fielder sent Vladimir Luka clear on a breakaway. Luka shot between Gospel’s legs and into the net for Tigers’ second goal. Scott McKenzie then had a chance to pull a further goal back but he shot over when well placed.
Mac Howlett then missed a great chance for Leeds, with an open goal and a free shot from close range, he somehow managed to shoot wide.
Leeds had another power play chance when Sam Watkins was called for tripping. Jake Witkowski scored with a well placed shot over Day’s shoulder into the roof of the net to give Leeds a fifth goal.
WIth the second period ending, Rory Herman was called for roughing. Sam Zajac went after Herrman and the two dropped the gloves with Herrman the clear winner. Zajac somehow escaped an instigator penalty meaning Leeds would have another power play.
On the subsequent power play, Howlett skated the length of the ice unopposed and shot over Day’s shoulder into the roof of the net to give Leeds a sixth goal.
Leeds changed their net minder at the start of the third period with Harrison Walker replacing Gospel.
Tigers were given hope of a comeback when Luka scored from a McKenzie pass and then Herrman scored with a superb slap shot on the power play after Matt Haywood was called for hooking.
But just as Tigers were back in the game. Brown scored almost immediately shooting in off Day’s skates to give Leeds a seventh goal.
A late power play goal from Witkowski put a gloss on the scoreboard for Leeds and sent Tigers crashing to another home defeat. Tigers drop into the final playoff spot in eighth place and are level on points with Bristol Pitbulls.
Final Score: Hexagon Telford Tigers 4 Leeds Knights 8.
Scorers: Tom Carlon, Vladimir Luka (2) and Rory Herrman.
Man of the match. Tom Carlon.
After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins, commented, “Firstly I’d like to extend our best wishes to linesman Scott Anstey. He took a tough fall and straight away you knew it was a serious one.
“Scott’s a good guy, loves his hockey and I hope to see him back out there in the near future.
“Leeds showed their quality this evening. They looked liked like a team playing with confidence, snapping the puck around, they supported the puck well and forechecked hard when they had to put the puck deep. They look like a team who have all the qualities to go on and win the league and cup.
“We battled but not enough of the guys were comfortable in making a play under pressure, creating quick transition which leads to offence.
“We lost assignments in the defensive zone as soon as they moved the puck quickly which cost us heavily.
“I think the biggest frustration for me is when we begin to find our game, creating opportunities, establishing a strong fore check we find a way of tripping ourselves up. We need to hold any momentum longer and allow us to tilt the ice in our favour for longer.”