High praise for Tigers after late drama in MK

Telford Tigers extended their lead at the top of the English Premier League with a dramatic 3-2 win over Milton Keynes Lightning on Saturday night.

Victory in their first game of 2017 means Telford are now seven points clear of second-placed Milton Keynes, who still have a game in hand over their title rivals.

But with the Lightning leading for much of the game, it took a late surge from the county men to secure the points, with two goals in the final period, and a strike in overtime.

Tigers coach Tom Watkins, who has steered his side to seven wins in the last eight games, said: “I think every point is huge now and even though people say it’s a four-point game against Milton Keynes, it’s two points.

“There’s still about twenty games to go, so that’s a long time left in the season. But it’s still a big two points that we’ve won tonight.”

The first period saw Telford struggle to match the Lightning, with netminder Sam Gospel forced into a string of fine saves as their hosts took control early on.

And that pressure paid off for Milton Keynes on eleven minutes, when Jordan Cownie took advantage of a mid-ice turnover to give his side an early lead.

Telford stepped up their game in the second session and Corey McEwen was unlucky to miss out on 31 minutes, when his close-range shot was saved by Przemyslaw Odrobny.

But it was Milton Keynes who ended the period with a two-goal advantage, thanks to a long-range strike from Jordan Cownie with three minutes remaining.

Watkins added: “We knew it was probably going to be a little bit hard for us coming out of the blocks, but I thought we played really well in the second period.

“I think the character of our team is always good. At two-nil, we just kept going, kept grinding it out. After the first period we got into the groove of how we should play.”

The early stages of the third session featured another netminding masterclass from Gospel, as he denied Milton Keynes the chance to seal victory.

“Sammy was outstanding for us tonight,” Watkins said.

“He made a huge couple of saves in the third period. Bakrlik had a great opportunity and Sam came across his goal like a train, blocked as much of the net as he did and got his body behind it.”

Milan Kolena sparked the Telford comeback on 51 minutes, when he took advantage of rebound from Odrobny to score his side’s first goal of the evening.

And the Tigers were level just 60 seconds later, thanks to a fine strike from Rick Plant, who shot through a crowded goalmouth, high into Odrobny’s net.

That goal sent the game into overtime, with Telford dominating the extra session, before Doug Clarkson secured the points with three minutes left.

“It’s great when you can get that little bit of a streak if you score one and then other quite quickly,” Watkins said.

“That sort of thing always turns the tide. We talked all week about second puck opportunities and Milan shot one which hit the defenceman, it landed right on his stick and it was in the back of the net.

“There was a bit of a broken play, Ricky collected a turnover in the offensive zone, then shot really well through the short side.

“In three on three during overtime I thought we were excellent. We managed the puck really well and were really smart in doing that.”

The Tigers are back in action tomorrow night (Sunday) when Swindon Wildcats are the visitors to Telford Ice Rink (6pm).

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