Tom Watkins: Telford Tigers already showing improvement

Head coach Tom Watkins believes his Telford Tigers were even better on the second night of their weekend return.

Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

Having edged out Romford Raiders in their Spring Cup opener at Telford Ice Rink on Saturday, the Tigers then followed that with a 5-2 triumph on their travels against the same opposition.

And after returning from Essex with a maximum haul of points, Watkins hailed his side for a strong opening to the tournament after 11 months off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I thought tonight was a much better performance from the team,” said Watkins after Sunday night’s victory. “I changed the top two units to give us a bit more speed across both lines and we looked much more comfortable.

“In the first period we created a lot of good chances, but Ethan James in the Raiders’ goal was very solid.

“We showed good transition on our first goal and likewise on a couple more of our goals. We were strong on the penalty kill again and we had another strong net minding performance with Jordan Hedley.

“I’m very pleased with the weekend overall. The team battled hard, played for each other which is key.”

Tigers made a disastrous start as Jake Sylvester’s shot went through Hedley and trickled over the line to hand the home team a goal lead after just 34 seconds.

With just over two minutes of the first period left, Tigers gained a well-deserved equaliser. Danny Rose found Sam Watkins in space by the Raiders’ blue line and he in turn sent the puck to Joe Aston, who used his speed to lose the Raiders’ defense and hit a brilliant wrist shot into the left-hand corner of James’ goal.

After a scoreless second period, it was Raiders who took the lead early in the final portion of the game, with Sean Barry finishing off a rebound from an Aaron Connolly shot after Tigers failed to clear the puck from their zone.

Tigers responded brilliantly by scoring two quick goals to take their first lead of the game. First, Scott McKenzie led an odd man rush, drove the net and opened space for Robert Lachowicz to find the unmarked Venus, who shot past James.

This was closely followed by a goal from Sam Jones, who hit a terrific shot into the top corner of the goal.

Tigers thought they had scored a fourth shortly after when Venus skated in on goal, shot and saw James save but fall into his goal with the puck. Referees Belfitt and Sevruk conferred before washing out the goal and awarding an interference penalty to Venus, much to the surprise of the Tigers’ bench. But Tigers’ class began to make the difference. Ross Venus timed a superb pass to Lachowicz, who was left with an open net.

Tigers would score their final goal despite facing a six-on-three power play.

Jason Silverthorn chased his own clearance into the corner and then outbattled two Raiders defenders to skate towards the goal and tap the puck into an empty net.

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