Shropshire Star

Improving Telford Tigers backed to make mark in Coventry

Tom Watkins has praised Telford Tigers for showing constant signs of “improvement” as they secured a place in the play-off semi-finals with a 9-3 victory over Swindon Wildcats.


That result saw Tigers claim top spot in Group B and guaranteed a place in the ‘Final Four’ in Coventry next weekend.

Tigers had won their opening three matches in the play-offs, but came into this match on the back of successive defeats against MK Lightning and Swindon respectively.

Telford will face the Peterborough Phantoms in the semi-finals, while Leeds Knights and Swindon go head-to-head in the other tie.

“What a great achievement for this team, for the club, for the players and for the fans,” head coach Watkins said.

“We didn’t know it prior to tonight’s game but we did the hard work in the first two weekends of the play-offs to secure qualification for next weekend’s Final Four.

“I am sure we were the underdogs going into the post-season but we were also the form team going into the play-offs with a solid end to the regular season.

“As a coach you can only hope that the team keeps improving each week, we have done that and the results in recent weeks are proof of that.

“We are confident we can make our mark in Coventry next weekend.”

Tigers made a dominant start and eventually found the breakthrough when Vladimir Luka and Archie Hazeldine combined to set-up Fin Howells to score the opener.

They doubled their lead with five minutes of the first period remaining when Jesse Sutton took advantage of the award of a penalty to rifle the puck into the roof of the net.

Telford added a third through Scott McKenzie, who led a three-man breakaway and decided to go alone as he shot into the top left-hand corner.

Swindon stopper Renny Marr was replaced between the sticks but Telford refused to take their foot off the gas as Howells doubled his tally during the second period. The visitors pulled a goal back through Gael Lubwele, but Tigers immediately restored their four-goal cushion when Hazeldine picked out McKenzie to finish low into the bottom corner.

Balint Pakozdi reduced the deficit again for Swindon, but Tigers responded when Jaden Peca pounced to convert the rebound from Hazeldine’s parried shot from distance.

Chris Jones found the net again for Swindon, although Tigers dashed any hopes of a fightback when Howells turned provider with a gliding run before unselfishly squaring for Harry Ferguson to deflect home. Tigers learned they had qualified for the ‘Final Four’ regardless of the result as Milton Keynes Lightning slipped to defeat against Raiders.

That meant that they edged opponents Swindon, who also qualified for the semi-finals, to finish at the Group B summit.

Yet Tigers were eager to add to their advantage in the third period, as James Smith got on the scoresheet when he was first to the rebound from Ferguson’s saved shot.

Aidan Wilson rounded off a resounding win in the latter stages as Hazeldine registered his fourth assist of the game.