McKinney Double Steels Cup Win. Hexagon Telford Tigers travelled to Ice Sheffield on Saturday night to take on the Sheffield Steeldogs in the NIHL North Cup. Tigers had gone to the top of the cup table with back to back wins last weekend over Solway Sharks and Hull Pirates respectively. Those wins already ensure that Tigers qualify for the semi finals with three group games remaining.
With the top two teams in the cup table gaining home ice advantage, it was important that Tigers maintained their recent good form in the cup. Steeldogs being the only team to beat Tigers in the North Cup this season so far, winning 5-2 in Telford in October. Sheffield held three games in hand on Tigers and could draw level at the top if they won all three games.
Tigers were boosted by the return of Andy McKinney but were without Denis Bell, Warren Tait and Joe Hazeldine.
Tigers started the game in perfect fashion, scoring with their first shot of the game after just 32 seconds. Jason Silverthorn and Ricky Plant combined to send McKinney in on goal. McKinney’s shot was saved by Dimitri Zimozdra in the Sheffield goal but the shot proved too powerful as it went through him and rolled into the net. Former Tigers player Milan Kolena went close for Sheffield in the 10th minute, hitting the post with a shot whilst Tigers were on a power play. Tigers added a second goal in the 16th minute, Danny Rose’s low shot from the blue line caught Zimozdra out, going straight in with the net minder unsighted. As the period entered the final 10 seconds, Sheffield’s Duncan Speirs broke in on the goal and hit a wrist shot past Tigers’ net minder Tom Hovell but it hit the post and bounced away. Tigers ending the period 2-0 ahead.
The 2nd period started badly for Tigers, with Sheffield pulling a goal back in the 23rd minute. Tigers failed to clear the puck from their defensive zone and Ben Morgan was able to pass to the unmarked Cameron Brownley, who hit an excellent wrist shot into the top corner of the goal, giving Hovell no chance to save it. In the 28th minute, Sheffield’s Tim Smith was given a kneeing penalty for a dangerous hit on Scott McKenzie. Danny Rose took exception to the hit and dropped the gloves to defend his team mate. Referee Steven Matthews gave Rose a five minute penalty for fighting and ejected him from the game. Tigers were the team who took advantage of the subsequent four on four play, when Silverthorn led a two on one breakaway and passed to Weaver who hammered a shot which went through Zimozdra into the net. Silverthorn then went close with a shot from close range that hit the post. As the period entered the final two minutes, Kolena was called for roughing, giving Tigers a power play. Tigers took full advantage of the extra man as McKenzie passed from circle to circle to find Doug Clarkson who struck a powerful shot into the goal for Tigers’ fourth. Zimozdra had seen enough action and skated off to be replaced by back up net minder Brandon Stones.
The 3rd period saw Sheffield’s attempts to get back in the game shut down by a strong Tigers rear guard with Hovell in particular making a number of good saves. McKenzie shot over the goal from close range after being set up by Clarkson. Tigers scored the final goal of the game in the 54th minute, Ricky Plant broke on the right hand side, beat two men and passed to Silverthorn who slid a pass across the goal crease to McKinney to apply the finish for his 2nd goal of the game and Tigers’ fifth.
Tigers’ win secures a semi final place and maintains their position in top spot in the group table.
Final Score: Sheffield Steeldogs 1 Hexagon Telford Tigers 5.
Scorers: Andy McKinney(2) , Danny Rose, Jonathan Weaver, Doug Clarkson.
Man of the match: Ricky Plant.
After the game coach Tom Watkins commented, “It was a dominant performance. We stuck to our systems, played hard all over the ice. Our defence really stepped up when we lost Rosey and blocked shots. We were clinical and our power play goal was probably the best goal you’ll see all year. Tom Hovell played a solid a game and was big all night.
Watkins added, “I am really pleased with how we’re playing. To face the top three teams: Hull, Solway and Sheffield in the last few weeks and take six points from those games, is a good achievement. However, we have still got to keep playing fast and with energy to maintain our good form.”
Hexagon Telford Tigers 1 return to play at Telford Ice Rink Sunday 1st December at 19:00 in the NIHL Moralee Conference against Billingham Stars. Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 are next in home action at Telford Ice Rink on Sunday 9th December at 18:00 in the NIHL Laidler Conference against Sheffield Senators.