Telford Tigers travelled to Milton Keynes on Saturday night to take on the Lightning in an NIHL National League game. Tigers came into the game off the back of a sensational comeback in the National Cup semi final second leg. Tigers qualified for the final after beating Swindon in a penalty shoot out, guaranteeing the club a place in the final against Peterborough Phantoms.
Tigers had lost their last two games against Milton Keynes and were looking to maintain their lead at the top of the league.
Tigers were unable to ice Jonathan Weaver and Ollie Lord but added James Smith and Sam Watkins to the line up.
Telford started with Brad Day in goal, Milton Keynes started Dean Skinns.
Tigers were under pressure in the first 5 minutes of the game with Milton Keynes having plenty of possession in the Tigers’ zone. Liam Stewart went close in the opening minute of the game, with Brad Day reacting well to stop the attempt. The pressure eventually told when Milton Keynes took the lead in the 10th minute. Tom Carlon picked out the unmarked Grant McPherson at the far post to tap home and open the scoring. Tigers had not been at their fluid best and passes were going astray as they struggled to get any shots on goal. McPherson handed Tigers an ideal opportunity to get on the scoresheet when he was called for tripping, giving Tigers a much needed power play chance. A minute into the power play, Tigers equalised. Dominik Florian took control of the puck in the right circle, skated towards goal and snapped a wrist shot past Skinns to make it 1-1.
The 2nd period started with Tigers showing some brilliant defending to keep the scores level. Nick Oliver made a magnificent stick check to prevent a certain goal, then Tigers were forced to kill off a 5-on-3 power play for Milton Keynes. Florian was called for a cross check and from the face off, before play had started, Jason Silverthorn was given a penalty for a face off violation, much to the bemusement of the Tigers’ captain. The penalties left Tigers facing a full two minutes with two players in the penalty box. Tigers’ penalty kill unit responded magnificently to the adversity by blocking everything hit at them, with Scott McKenzie throwing himself in front of shot, blocking it and clearing the puck to allow a line change. Tigers ended the period with a power play when Cale Tanaka was given a slashing penalty in the final seconds. The power play would carry over to the start of the third period.
The power play unit scored for Tigers less than a minute into the period. McKenzie managed to find Silverthorn unmarked in the slot. Silverthorn dispatched the puck past Skinns to give Tigers the lead. SIlverthorn was then given a ten minute misconduct penalty much to everyone in the rink’s surprise, with no-one but referee Hewitt seeing an infraction.
It was then Telford’s turn to have a 5-on-3 power play when Ross Green was given a hooking penalty, he was joined in the penalty box by Tomas Kana for delay of game. Tigers’ coach Tom Watkins called a time out to ensure the power play unit were rested and this worked immediately when Brandon Whistle scored with a superb wrist shot that was past Skinns before he could move, putting Tigers 3-1 ahead. Milton Keynes gained a player back but could not stop the rampant Tigers’ power play from adding a fourth goal. Andy McKinney forced a save from Skinns but McKenzie was first to the rebound, kicking the puck to his stick and scoring from almost on the goal line to put Tigers 4-1 ahead.
Tigers added a fifth goal as the game entered the final five minutes. Once again Whistle showed superb stick handling skills to beat a defender and pass the puck to the unmarked McKinney who scored with ease. Milton Keynes had the final say on the score sheet with Carlon scoring a late consolation goal. Tigers’ win extends their lead over second placed Swindon to six points after the Wiltshire side lost at home earlier in the evening to Bracknell Bees.
Final Score: Milton Keynes Lightning 2 Hexagon Telford Tigers 5
Scorers: Dominik Florian, Jason Silverthorn, Brandon Whistle, Scott McKenzie and Andy McKinney.
Man of the match: Brad Day.
After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins, commented, “It was another great win for us. It was a really disciplined performance from all the boys in all three zones against a team who have performed very well of late, but we took our chances well and I think we managed the puck with a lot of poise. Both our power play and penalty kill were top notch. To kill a full two minutes of 5-on-3 really gave us some momentum and that was probably our first 5-on-3 power play goal for a number of months. I was very disappointed with the call on Silvs (Silverthorn) tonight, to pull a guy off the bench and give him a 10 minute misconduct for hitting the linesman with his stick at a face off: a) it was the wrong person and b) we see that so many times a season and there is no call. I just don’t get how they come up with some of these calls at times. We also had an official standing in the slot when we enter the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway which effectively played defence against us, as it prevented us getting in on goal! Anyway, it was a great win for us and a good two points on the road against a team who have had an impressive home stand of late. Finally, I’d like to thank the great travelling support from the Tigers’ fans who silenced a very full crowd.”