Weaver Wonder Goal Sets Up Tigers Win. Hexagon Telford Tigers 1 faced off against league leaders Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday night at Telford Ice Rink. Tigers had lost only one league game this season – an overtime loss to Sheffield back in September and were looking to close the gap at the top of the league. Sheffield held a 100% league record coming into the game after a hard fought 3-2 win over former EPL rivals Hull Pirates on Friday. Tigers came into the game on the back of a 3-1 victory over Solway Sharks to set up a terrific game in front of a sell out crowd.
An end to end first period started well for Tigers, Sheffield’s Cameron Brownley took a tripping call in the 4th minute. Tigers had numerous shots on goal during the subsequent power play including a fierce shot from Doug Clarkson that clearly winded Sheffield net minder Dimitri Zimozdra, who remained down in his crease for thirty seconds but Sheffield managed to clear the puck to buy some time for his recovery. Just as the power play ended and Brownley stepped out of the penalty box onto the ice, Andy McKinney passed to Jonathan Weaver who was standing on the Sheffield blue line, Weaver smashed a slap shot which flew past Zimozdra into the net to open the scoring.
Tigers were then put on the back foot by successive penalties. Dan Mitchell was assessed a high sticking penalty, closely followed by a boarding penalty for Ricky Plant, meaning Tigers would be two men down for a minute and a half. Tigers showed great determination not to concede, including a terrific hit by Jason Silverthorn in front of the Tigers’ bench. Tigers killed off the penalties but were immediately assessed a further penalty when Andy McKinney was called for tripping. This time Sheffield took advantage of the extra man, Duncan Speirs’ shot being tipped by Ashley Calvert past Sam Gospel to tie the game.
As the pulsating period was drawing to a conclusion with just 15 seconds left on the clock, Jonathan Weaver took control of the puck just past Telford’s defensive blue line and hammered a shot that flew into the top corner of the goal, leaving Zimozdra looking around, oblivious to where the puck had gone. Tigers ended the period 2-1 ahead thanks to Weaver’s stunning strike.
The second period proved to be the best period at Telford so far this season. An early holding penalty for Sheffield’s Tim Smith gave Tigers a power play chance. Twenty five seconds into the power play, Silverthorn was sent clear on goal but was pulled back by a Sheffield defender and prevented from shooting. Referee Hand awarded a penalty shot to Tigers. Silverthorn took the shot but Zimozdra made a pad save to prevent a goal. Sheffield then had a two on one short handed breakaway but a terrific save by Gospel prevented a goal. With the puck lying on the goal line, Joe Hazeldine was first to reach it and clear the puck before Sheffield could score.
In the 29th minute, Sheffield thought they had scored the equaliser when Milan Kolena picked up a rebound from a Gospel save, skated behind the net and tried to put the puck into the net. Kolena celebrated with his team mates but the goal judge and referee did not award the goal. Sheffield’s Thomas Relf argued so vociferously that he was awarded a 10 minute unsporting conduct penalty.
Sheffield levelled the scores in the 33rd minute. Cameron Brownley stepped out of the penalty box after his interference penalty had ended and skated onto Andrew Hirst’s pass, scoring with a terrific finish which gave Gospel no chance. Tigers were then given a chance to regain the lead when Lewis Bell was awarded an interference penalty, giving Tigers a power play. Adam Taylor scored with a shot from a tight angle that banked in off Zimozdra. Tigers’ lead would be short-lived though as, thirty seconds later, Hirst’s shot deflected off Speirs and past Gospel to level the game at 3-3. As the period reached the final three minutes, the pivotal moment of the game happened. Sheffield’s Adrian Palak cross checked Danny Rose into the boards, Rose reacted and dropped the gloves. Both players were awarded four minute fighting penalties, but Palak was awarded an extra two minute penalty for the initial infraction. As the game restarted, the Tigers’ bench drew the referee’s attention to the fact that Sheffield’s import Milan Kolena was on the ice for the penalty kill, meaning that Sheffield had two imports on the ice (Palak being classed as on the ice as he was serving a penalty). Kolena was given a two minute penalty giving Tigers almost two minutes of five on three power play time. Tigers took full advantage of the extra two players, Doug Clarkson hammered a slap shot into the net after being set up by Weaver for Tigers’ fourth goal. A minute later (whilst still on the power play) Andy McKinney’s shot was saved but Ricky Plant was on hand to tap home the rebound to give Tigers a 5-3 lead. In the final minute of the period, Sheffield were awarded a penalty shot when Weaver was deemed to have hooked Duncan Speirs as he skated in on goal. Speirs took the resultant penalty shot but Sam Gospel made a terrific sprawling save to ensure Tigers would end the period two goals ahead.
Tigers started the third period as they had finished the second, with Silverthorn going close early on, with his shot bouncing off Zimozdra’s helmet and deflecting out of play. In the 45th minute Sheffield thought they had scored when the puck broke to Nathan Salam in front of goal. Salam hit a wrist shot into the top corner of the net but the goal was disallowed as Speirs had already been called for a holding the stick penalty before Salam hit the shot. The subsequent power play saw Clarkson score his second of the game, hitting a wrist shot from close range into the corner of the net for Tigers’ 6th goal. Less than a minute later, Hazeldine led a two on one breakaway and passed to McKinney who shot past Zimozdra for Tigers’ 7th goal. Zimozdra had seen enough action and skated off to be replaced by back up net minder Brandon Stones. Tigers then added their 8th goal, Clarkson showed fantastic stick handling skills to beat a Sheffield defender, skate round him and then hit an unstoppable shot past Stones to complete his hat trick. The final goal of the contest was scored by Sheffield’s Hirst from close range after Gospel had saved Ben Morgan’s shot but couldn’t stop the rebound. Tigers’ win means they close the gap at the top to a single point with Tigers having a game in hand on Sheffield.
Final Score: Hexagon Telford Tigers 8 Sheffield Steeldogs 4.
Scorers: Doug Clarkson (3), Jonathan Weaver (2), Adam Taylor, Andy McKinney and Ricky Plant.
Man of the match: Jonathan Weaver
After the game coach Tom Watkins commented, “What a great night on and off the ice, a full building, good atmosphere and a quality game of hockey that had everything, goals, fights, big hits and a couple of penalty shots. I thought we competed very hard, showed good character after we let the Steeldogs back in the game a couple of times and then went on to dominant the third period. Jonathan Weaver showed his class at both ends of the rink and what about that shot from the far blue line that went straight in! That’s a big two points for sure and a good four point weekend.”
Watkins added, “It was great to see so many fans enjoy the skate with the players after the game. I’m very grateful to the players for making the effort. Merry Christmas to everyone.”
Hexagon Telford Tigers 1 return to play at Telford Ice Rink Sunday 30th December at 18:00 in the NIHL Moralee Conference against Solihull Barons. Hexagon Telford Tigers 2 are next in home action at Telford Ice Rink on Saturday 5th January 2019 at 19:00 in the NIHL Laidler Conference against Sheffield Senators. For details of all future fixtures, check out the Tigers fixture list and www.telfordtigers.net/tickets for ticket information.