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Tigers On Cloud Nine With Final Four Place.

Hexagon Telford Tigers headed into their final home game of the season needing a win to guarantee a place in the Final Four in Coventry next weekend. Telford had lost in Swindon – their sixth defeat this season to the Wildcats – and knew that a win was needed or a Raiders victory at home to Milton Keynes to see the Shropshire side through to the semi finals for the third consecutive season. Before the game the club honoured Head Coach Tom Watkins whose number 20 was retired earlier this year. This game represented Watkins’ 738th game coaching for Telford Tigers.

The first period started with Tigers pressuring Renny Marr in the Swindon goal from the opening buzzer. Vladimir Luka had four shots at goal in the opening two minutes but was off target each time. With Marr being peppered with shots, it was no surprised that the home side struck first. With Swindon’s Chris Jones in the penalty box for tripping, Telford’s power play worked the puck well and Luka and Archie Hazeldine combined to send the puck into the slot where Fin Howells was waiting to send a low wrist shot past Marr.

With five minutes of the period left, Telford doubled their lead with a penalty shot goal. Jesse Sutton was hooked as he homed in on the Swindon goal and a penalty shot awarded. Sutton skated out wide and then burst in on goal at speed and sent a wrist shot into the roof of the net.

Tigers weren’t finished with the first period scoring and struck again within thirty seconds. Scott McKenzie led a three man breakaway and with Marr expecting a pass to the trailing Ryan Leese or Rhodes Mitchell-King, McKenzie shot into the top left hand corner of the goal with a superbly placed shot. Swindon coach Aaron Nell had seen enough and replaced Marr with back up Tyler Perre.

Late in the period Swindon thought they had reduced the deficit but the “goal” was ruled out as the puck had been kicked into the net. 

Swindon picked up the pace at the start of the second period and were pressuring the Tigers’ goal for the opening two minutes. But Telford broke away and scored a fourth goal. McKenzie sent Howells in on goal and Howells hit a terrific wrist shot into the bottom corner of the goal.

Swindon pulled a goal back through Gael Lubwele but Tigers hit back when Hazeldine sent a pin point stretch pass to the unmarked McKenzie on the Swindon blue line. McKenzie skated in on Perre’s goal unopposed and shot low to his left for Tigers’ fifth goal.

Balint Pakozdi pulled another goal back for the visitors from close range but Swindon then handed an advantage to Telford when Lubwele was called for tripping. The power play lasted only seven seconds as Hazeldine’s long range shot was saved by Perre but Jaden Peca scored at the second attempt with the rebound.

Once again Swindon responded with a goal, Jones scored from close range. But Tigers rounded off the scoring in the period with a seventh goal. James Smith found Fin Howells by the boards in front of the Tigers’ bench, Howells beat a defender then sent a pass in front of goal for Harry Ferguson to deflect home.

With two minutes of the third period gone, the result from Romford was known by the crowd and Milton Keynes losing meant Telford had qualified for the Final Four regardless of their result. Day was replaced in goal by back up Matty Bloor.

Ten minutes from the end of the game Tigers had an eighth goal. Ferguson’s shot was saved by Perre but Smith was on hand to poke the puck into the net.

Tigers ended the game with a ninth goal and Hazeldine was involved again – getting his fourth assist of the game – when he sent a pass across the goal to Aidan Wilson who tapped home to seal a magnificent performance for Telford.

The victory sees Tigers top Group B and head to the Final Four in Coventry.

Final Score: Hexagon Telford Tigers 9 Swindon Wildcats 3.

Scorers: Fin Howells (2), Scott McKenzie (2), Jesse Sutton, Jaden Peca, Harry Ferguson, James Smith and Aidan Wilson.

Man of the match: Henry Adams.

After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins, commented, “What a great achievement for this team for the club for the players and for the fans. We didn’t know it prior to tonight’s game but we did the hard work in the first two weekends of the playoffs to secure qualification for next weekend’s Final Four. I’m sure we were the underdogs going into the post season but we were also the form team going into the playoffs with a solid end to the regular season. As a coach you can only hope that the team keeps improving each week, we have done that and the results in recent weeks are proof of that. We are confident we can make our mark in Coventry next weekend.”

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