Opening the defence of their NIHL National League title they won two years ago, the Tigers were edged out in the eighth round of penalty shots by a Wildcats side who had already played – and lost – their first game.
And after a point gained, Watkins said: “It was a very tough game. In the first period I thought we started very well, created chances and got a goal up and made it difficult for Swindon in the offensive zone.
“The second period was the polar opposite, Swindon really established a strong forecheck, won battles and races, were first to loose pucks and created a lot of good chances where we established little pressure but I was relieved to end the period ahead.
“We played a much better third period but we still gave up a soft goal and had some good chances ourselves and I thought we perhaps could have won it in over time and in the shootout.
“That said I thought we got more than we deserved in securing a point. Swindon were the better team on the night.”
The first period was a scrappy one with both teams struggling to create meaningful chances.
Tigers had an extended five-on-three power play with Emil Svec and Sam Godfrey in the penalty box for Swindon.
Despite considerable possession in the offensive zone, Tigers did not cause much trouble to Dean Skinns in the Swindon goal.
However, as the second penalty ended Tigers opened the scoring with the only goal of the period.
With Swindon not yet back to full strength and Godfrey making his way out of the penalty box, the puck was fed to Corey Goodison, who smashed the puck into the top left-hand corner of the goal.
Swindon had the better of the second period with Tigers fighting a rearguard action for much of the period.
Early on, Svec hit the side of the Tigers’ goal and then a Chris Jones shot stuck the post.
Finally, the pressure told as Tomasz Malasinski scored to draw the sides level – the Swindon player skating around the back of the goal and sending a shot high into Brad Day’s goal.
Swindon continued to press and struck the post again, but the Tigers were given a golden chance late in the period when Godfrey was called for an interference penalty.
And they made their man advantage count just before the penalty expired when Fin Howells and Andy McKinney combined to send Jack Hopkins in on goal and the youngster buried the puck past Skinns for his first goal for the club.
Early in the third period Swindon were level.
Two Tigers defensemen skated into each other, gifting the puck to Swindon who scored through Godfrey from close range.
Swindon then took their first lead of the night with a shot from Malasinski that bounced off Day’s blocker and looped behind him into the net.
Despite their best efforts, Tigers couldn’t force many chances and the game looked to have slipped away until a late goal saw the game head to overtime. Scott McKenzie pressured Swindon’s defence and managed to force the puck towards Nick Oliver, who blasted a slap shot past Skinns.
Tigers had the best of the overtime period with McKinney forcing a terrific save from Skinns.
In the shootout, both netminders proved difficult to beat with only Austin Mitchell-King scoring for Tigers – but this was cancelled out by Aaron Nell’s successful shot.
Andwith Skinns saving Scott McKenzie’s shot in the eighth round of the shoot out, Swindon’s Reed Sayers won the game, shooting low past Day.