Shropshire Star

Tom Watkins enthused by battling Telford Tigers despite defeat

Head coach Tom Watkins took plenty of heart and satisfaction from a battling Telford Tigers display despite defeat at Milton Keynes Lightning.


Tigers fell to a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the NIHL’s second-placed side as former Tigers forward Rory Herrman struck a hat-trick and assisted twice, with one of the league’s star men Ross Venus playing a starring role.

Lightning took the contest away from Tigers extending a lead from 2-1 to 4-1 in the second period, including a controversial third goal, Herrman’s second, which appeared to see the US player kick the puck in. But the goal was given as Lightning took advantage of a power play conceded by James Smith for hooking.

“Forget the result for a second, but I think we put in a very good performance, every one of our players played the right way,” said head coach Watkins, who saw his side’s three-match winning run end.

“We battled, we showed a lot of character and pushed really hard for 60 minutes. We moved the puck very well and I thought we had an offensive threat from every line tonight.

“Milton Keynes have a very good line up and whilst Rory Herrman got three goals and two assists, I felt that Ross Venus was the difference this evening. Everything went through him and he makes everyone around him a better player, a bit like Kevin De Bruyne for Man City, he oozed class and is so good on the puck. This league is too easy for him!

“The only negative thing for us was the result, we feel a little disappointed with a couple of missed calls that went against us and I think their third goal was kicked in, which the officials missed but sometimes as the away team, those calls go against you.”

Venus opened the scoring on nine minutes with a low wrist shot to open the scoring before Telford’s Jesse Sutton equalised.

Herrman made it 2-1 at the end of period one and, with a man extra in the second period, came the controversy as the same player was credited with 3-1 despite appearing to kick. Tigers battled on but Liam Stewart made it 4-1.

Tim Lawrence netted an MK fifth with 10 minutes left before the visitors struck through Harry Ferguson and a Vladimir Luka power play goal, but Herrman sealed the win after Tigers had pulled netminder Brad Day from the goal for the final couple of minutes.

Watkins also reserved praise for 16-year-old Tigers defenceman Ryan Leese, who has excelled in recent weeks.

“I must also comment on the play of young Ryan Leese,” he added. “His emergence as a sixteen years old defender over the last four to five weeks has been simply outstanding.

“He’s adjusted well and taken to this level with ease.

“He really impressed me this evening, you know he’s going to compete because he’s a competitor, you know he can win races as he’s a solid skater, but to go against their top line for much of the evening and play the way he played, he was like a young Bobby Orr.

“He was composed under pressure, he made some great outlet passes, got our transition moving quickly and rushed a few pucks like a seasoned pro. The best bit is that he’s a great kid with solid work habits.”