Tigers Storm into Final. Hexagon Telford Tigers returned to cup action after back-to-back league wins saw them open up a four-point lead at the top of the league standings. Tigers lost the first leg of the cup so started the game trailing on aggregate by two goals after a late defensive collapse saw the team concede four unanswered goals in the third period at Milton Keynes.
Tigers were without Sam Watkins, Jack Watkins, Thomas McKinnon, Ross Connolly and Vladimir Luka who were all unavailable for the game.
With the Tigers chasing the game a good start was imperative and they scored within two minutes of the opening face-off. A Fin Howells’ shot from distance was tipped past Lightning netminder Matt Smital by Austin Mitchell-King who was perfectly placed in front of goal to divert the puck in.
Tigers dominated much of the first period and, midway through, drew level on aggregate with a second goal. Jason Silverthorn hit a shot that rebounded off Smital’s pads and bounced out to the right. Bayley Harewood took control of the puck and shot into the net from a tight angle to give Tigers parity in the tie. Shortly after, Tigers scored their third goal. Mitchell-King fought to win the puck on the boards and beat a Milton Keynes’ defender, then skated towards Smital at an angle and shot through him into the net to send the crowd wild.
The game turned feisty towards the end of the period when Scott McKenzie was caught with a late hit by James Griffin that went uncalled by the officials. This caused Danny Rose to go after Griffin. The pair dropped the gloves and Rose was awarded an extra two-minute penalty and a ten-minute misconduct. Tigers saw off the power play and maintained their advantage on the scoreboard.
As the buzzer sounded for the end of the period, Joe Aston and Milton Keynes’ Bobby Chamberlain dropped the gloves with Chamberlain skating off to the dressing room gesturing to the crowd to be quiet.
Tigers scored a fourth goal in the opening minute of the second period. Silverthorn and Weaver had a 2-on-1 breakaway with Silverthorn skating in on goal, waiting patiently for Smital to move and then sending a shot low along the ice into the net. Minutes later Tigers had a fifth goal and took full control of the tie. Andy McKinney at the end of a shift just managed to get enough energy to send a shot in on goal and the puck went through Smital’s legs and trickled behind him into the net – much to his disgust. Smital immediately skated off the ice and was replaced by backup netminder Brandon Stones. Much of the rest of the period was littered with penalties as the officials lost control of the game at times and called numerous dubious penalties.
Telford added a sixth goal early in the third period. Jonathan Weaver took his time with possession on the blue line and waited for the perfect moment before unleashing an unstoppable slap shot that flew past Stones before he could react. With the game and tie effectively over at this point, Telford sensibly ran down the clock. Milton Keynes scored two late consolation goals through Morgan Pizzo and Russell Cowley but Tigers saw out the game and qualified for the final where they will meet either Swindon Wildcats or Sheffield Steeldogs.
Final Score: Hexagon Telford Tigers 6 Milton Keynes Lightning 2. (Tigers win 10-8 on aggregate).
Scorers: Austin Mitchell-King (2), Bayley Harewood, Jason Silverthorn, Andy McKinney and Jonathan Weaver.
New Brew Man of the match: Austin Mitchell-King
After the game Head Coach Tom Watkins, commented, “What a great night for Tigers Hockey, to come from two goals behind to totally dominate the game in every department against one of our closest rivals was very impressive. We’ve earned the right to defend our trophy (the cup we won in our last full season), that’s some achievement by this team, by these players and back-to-back finals is an outstanding achievement.
We identified key areas where we felt we could have success, change the momentum of this tie and we executed that to a very high standard. Every player tonight was on their game, fully committed and fully focused as were the fans. We got going early and ignited the crowd who were behind us all night helping us to shut Milton Keynes down.”
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