Tigers Hold Narrow Lead After First Leg. Hexagon Telford Tigers travelled to Buckinghamshire for the first leg of the quarter finals of the playoffs on Saturday night. With Tigers finishing the league season in seventh place they would take on the Lightning – a team that they had not beaten all season – for a place in the Final Four a week later. Milton Keynes as the higher seed had elected to play their home leg first giving Telford the advantage of a home tie in the second leg.
Tigers welcomed back Ricky Plant to the line up after the veteran forward had missed the last few games of the league season.
Tigers struggled to get into the game in the early stages as they made a slow start and had to kill off two penalties in the opening five minutes of the game. Brad Day made two terrific saves including preventing a certain goal with a point blank save. As the first period progressed Telford started to get their game going and in the final two minutes of the period, they took the lead. Plant broke into the Milton Keynes’ defensive zone and passed across to Scott McKenzie who sent the puck across to the unmarked Rory Herrman, allowing him to hit a first time shot into the open net, to give Tigers the opening goal of the contest.
Early in the second period, Vladimir Luka was assessed a hooking penalty. Milton Keynes equalised on the subsequent power play with a goal from close range by Sean Norris.
Tigers struggled to get going again and were under constant pressure, so it was not a surprise when Milton Keynes took the lead, even though there was some considerable fortune with the goal. Liam Stewart sent a speculative shot towards Tigers’ goal which hit Henry Adams’ skate and deflected past Day.
Late in the period Tigers were handed a chance to get level when Lewis Christie was called for tripping. Tigers controlled the puck well and Plant sent a pass from behind the goal to Fin Howells who shot towards goal and saw the puck rebound off Hedley’s pads. Herrman was waiting for the rebound and stuck a perfect wrist shot past Hedley into the net.
The third period saw Day called on again to bail Telford out with a superb save from a Milton Keynes breakaway.
Tigers then had two break away chances of their own, Luka and Sam Watkins both went close but were denied by Hedley.
With both sides cautious and looking not to make any mistakes as the end of the game got nearer. Milton Keynes handed Tigers a crucial power play with five minutes of the game left. With Hallden Barnes-Garner in the penalty box for tripping, Tigers took full advantage of the extra attacker by scoring a third goal. Plant was involved again, sending a pass to McKenzie who found the unmarked Jake Price in space in the left circle. Price hit a shot into the open net with Hedley stranded out of position.
Tigers defended sensibly for the rest of the game and take a crucial lead into the home leg in Telford on Sunday.
Final Score: Milton Keynes Lightning 2 Hexagon Telford Tigers 3.
Scorers: Rory Herrman (2) and Jake Price.
Man of the match: Brad Day.
After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins, commented, “We need the fans to pack the rink tomorrow and get behind this team. Tonight we saw the grit and determination, the discipline, players sacrificing their bodies to block shots, to take a hit to make a play, The whole team were outstanding this evening, in the lion’s den in front of 2000 plus Milton Keynes fans. Yes we rode our luck at times but you need that against a team who are stacked full of top end talent but we stuck to the plan we had and executed it.
To come out of there with a small advantage is huge, most definitely a case of will over skill at times. I am really proud of all the team and we must show that character again tomorrow.”
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