Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 travelled back to Widnes for the grand final of the Laidler Playoff weekend on Sunday after securing their place in the final following a victory over Sutton Sting in the semi-final the day prior. The final was set to be an exciting instalment of hockey, with Tigers up against foes Hull Jets who recently snapped up the league title.
Tigers were short benched for the game with Joe Aston, Charlie Webb, Filip Supa, Mike Jones, Adam Matteri, Geoff Wigglesworth joining the lengthy list of absentees.
An early goal in under two minutes for Tigers from Oli Hunt was the perfect start for Telford and set the tone for game from the get-go. James Smith shortly followed with his first goal of the game taking Tigers to a two-goal lead. Quick passing in the offensive zone for Tigers opened up a chance for them which Hunt capitalised on pushing the puck into the Jets net, but the goal was disallowed. The well represented Tigers crowd cheered their team on and before long, they were roaring at a [given] third Tigers goal, again from Captain Oli Hunt. The period ended with Tigers leading the Jets by three goals.
A goalless second period saw both sides pushing to get on the scoreboard, but some great defensive play from both teams paid off. Tigers found themselves short-handed on a couple of occasions with minor penalties for Crowe and Washburn, but the penalty kill unit was out in force, denying Jets of any chances. Between the pipes for Tigers was Zack Brown who stopped everything coming his way for the period.
The puck dropped for the third and final period and Tigers were full steam ahead with James Smith snapping up his second goal taking Tigers to four unanswered goals. Hull remained dangerous and continued to put up a challenge, which Smith was more than happy to take on, after securing his hattrick goal with half the final period still left to play and Tigers five goals up.
The pressure for the Jets was growing evermore, but that didn’t put a stop on their grit and determination. Clinical breakout work from Tigers allowed James Smith to find unmarked Paul Davies near post. The bouncing Tigers fans in the stands raised the roof when Davies shot past netminder Dom Smith, pushing Tigers into six goals to nil lead with less than eight minutes left to play.
As the game headed into the final five minutes, Jets picked up their first goal thanks to Boris Giba. Jets pressed on, denying Tigers of any further chances. Emotions were running high, and time was running out for Jets. With the puck in the Jets zone for the final minute, a fumble in front of the Jets net resulted in a clash between Tigers’ James Callagher and Hull’s Richard Haggar. Both players were landed with five-minute major penalties for fighting and were ejected out the game.
The seconds on the clock were counting down and the Telford fans in the stands got louder up the final buzzer sounding. Players’ helmets, sticks and gloves went flying through the air whilst confetti cannons went off in the Tigers stand before the players piled on each other celebrating becoming 2023 Laidler Playoff Champions!
Hull Jets 1
Hexagon Telford Tigers 6
Scorers: James Smith (3), Oli Hunt (2), Paul Davies
Man of the match: James Smith
After the game Tigers 2 Coach Dougie Wildman commented, “I’m very pleased and proud of how the team performed this weekend. We had a a tough semi-final Saturday against Sutton to grind out the win. A truly dominating performance in the final is what secured us the Playoff title, the victory is a result. The team have worked hard work all season and being Playoff Champions is fully deserved.