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Quick-starting Telford Tigers earn their first win of campaign

Tom Watkins was thrilled with Telford Tigers’ quick start to earn ‘a very important win’ in their first home match of the season.

Vladimar Luka celebrates
Vladimar Luka celebrates

Twenty-four hours after losing 7-4 at Leeds Knights in their NIHL National League opener, the reigning champions returned to Shropshire to overcome Bristol Pitbulls by the same scoreline.

And after a pair of heavy friendly defeats the week before as well, Watkins was thrilled with the response of his side, whose goals came from Vladimir Luka (three), Fin Howells (two), Rhodes Mitchell-King and Nick Oliver.

“It was a very strong performance from all the team,” he said. “We wanted to get going quickly and play with the lead, which was something we hadn’t done yet and got the perfect start with a great goal from Rhodes.

“I thought we were very solid at both ends of the rink. We moved the puck very well, were tenacious on our fore check and committed in the defensive zone.

“A very important win in our first home league game of the season.”

Tigers started the game without Jonathan Weaver and captain Jason Silverthor,n who had also missed the defeat in Leeds. Also unavailable was Deakan Fielder.

But they made the perfect start with a goal from their opening attack of the night.

Mitchell-King took possession of the puck on his own blue line and skated unopposed through on goal and shot through Will Kerlin into the Bristol net.

Telford added a second shortly after when Luka intercepted a Bristol pass on their blue line, skated through on goal and smashed the puck past Kerlin.

Bristol hit back straight away and had a bit of fortune with the goal. Caly Robertson sent a shot towards goal, which hit Oliver’s stick and deflected past Brad Day.

However, Tigers ended the period two goals ahead after Kerlin made an error when leaving his goal to play the puck behind the net. Sam Watkins stole it and sent it in front for Howells, who controlled the puck with his back to goal and back-handed into the open net.

Early in the second period, Telford added a fourth, with Howells scoring his second of the game with a shot that went through Kerlin’s legs.

Bristol pulled a goal back within two minutes, Owen Sobchak netting from close range after a pass across goal by Alex Roberts. But Tigers added a fifth when Scott McKenzie led a two-on-one breakaway and sent a pass to Luka, who hit a first-time shot in off the post.

Luka completed his hat-trick five minutes later with a powerful wrist shot after McKenzie had been the provider again.

Bristol pulled a goal back with a five-on-three power play goal, but there was still time in the second period for Tigers to score a seventh as Oliver sent a shot from the blue line that went into the top left-hand corner of the goal with Ricky Plant screening Kerlin.

Alex Roberts scored the only goal of the third period while Bristol were on the power play, but Telford saw out the rest of the game and secured their first victory of the season.

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