Shropshire Star

Tom Watkins hails Tigers as they end their losing run

Telford Tigers boss Tom Watkins praised his players for a strong performance, as they cruised to a 4-1 victory over Sheffield Steeldogs.


The Tigers had lost five on the bounce prior to Sunday’s fixture, but responded in emphatic style to climb into fifth in the National Ice Hockey League table.

Watkins felt the victory was well deserved, and was delighted to return to winning ways.

Players and fans celebrate Joe Aston's goal.

“That was a very well deserved win after a strong performance by all the team,” Watkins said.

“We played at a good level for the whole game and to play with the lead and control the scoreboard is important for our belief and confidence.

“The last few weeks have been hard with a tough run of games but three points from four available this weekend is positive.

Joe Aston looks back after scoring. Picture: Steve Brodie

“I’m pleased to get a win on home ice and for the players to play their winning song.”

The Tigers did gain a point from their road trip to Slough against the Bees on Saturday, but the Shropshire side ultimately fell to a 3-2 defeat in overtime.

Injuries and availability have affected the Tigers of late with Sam Watkins, Danny Rose and Ricky Plant out injured, and Jonathan Weaver, Lucas Price and Jaden Peca all unavailable.

And the Steeldogs’ initially posed problems with their style of play during the opening exchanges, which made for a scrappy contest with both sides struggling to create anything of note.

Nonetheless, Telford eventually found the breakthrough with the only goal of the first period.

Vladimir Luka celebrates scoring his hat-trick and Telford's fourth. Picture: Steve Brodie

It stemmed from the Tigers’ first power play of the night, which saw Scott McKenzie feed Vladimir Luka to hammer home a shot off the crossbar.

Sheffield looked to impose their physicality on the game, but Telford remained loyal to their game plan, and soon doubled their advantage.

Jesse Sutton surged forward with a rampaging run to find himself through on goal and unselfishly teed up Luka to convert into an empty net for his second of the game.

The Tigers were celebrating a third just three minutes later as Joe Aston got on the scoresheet.

Zayne McKenzie and Jaon Heweitt tangle on the boards. Picture: Steve Brodie

Sutton and McKenzie maintained possession tidily in the defensive zone, before McKenzie saw his effort saved, and Aston was on hand to fire home the rebound. Sheffield pulled a goal back early in the second period after Jonathan Phillips got the decisive touch at the end of an almighty goalmouth scramble.

But the Tigers kept Sheffield at bay for the remainder of the game, before sealing the deal in the final minute as Luka completed his hat-trick.

Rhodes Mitchell-King picked out the unmarked Luka with a fantastic pass from inside his own half, and Luka kept his composure to tuck the puck into the net.

Rhodes Mitchell King celebrates with Vladimir Luka as he opens the scoring.

The Tigers travel to Bristol Pitbulls on Saturday, before welcoming the same opponents to the Telford Ice Rink the following day.