In a bumper edition of the weekly roundup, we take a look around the league as the competition for places in the top five steps up another level. With 14 points separating first and fifth and plenty of games left to play, it looks like it’ll be a barnstorming end to the inaugural year of the National League.
Cup: Telford Tigers 7-3 Swindon Wildcats (After penalties)
Aggregate: Tigers 11-10 Wildcats
Aaron Nell’s Swindon Wildcats looked as though they had one foot in the final after 40 minutes in Telford on Wednesday night. But, goals from Brandon Whistle, Thomas McKinnon and Jack Watkins sent the game into overtime. There were no further goals in OT and Whistle completed the dramatic turnaround by scoring the lone penalty shot goal to book their spot in the final.
Cup: Peterborough Phantoms 8-6 Hull Pirates
Aggregate: Phantoms 12-8 Pirates
The Phantoms largely had Corey McEwen to thank as they booked their place alongside Telford in the National Cup Final. McEwen scored five goals across the two legs as the Phantoms won 12-8 on aggregate. Petr Stepanek netted a hat-trick in the second leg, whilst Ales Padelek and McEwen both got two each.
Leeds Chiefs 1-4 Sheffield Steeldogs
Despite the result, it was a night to remember for the Leeds Chiefs, who played in their brand-new rink for the first time. Steeldogs youngster, Jack Brammer, scored the first ever goal in the rink, whilst Ben Morgan, Alex Graham and Nathan Salem also got on the scoresheet. It was a memorable result for Lewis Houston, though, who scored the first home goal for the Chiefs with just over five minutes to play in the game.
Swindon Wildcats 4-6 Bracknell Bees
Speaking of nights to remember, it was certainly one of those for the Bracknell Bees. The ninth placed Bees raced into a 4-0 lead over the second placed Wildcats, courtesy of goals from Aidan Doughty, Roman Malinik, Dominik Gabaj and Ryan Webb. The middle period was a productive one for the Cats as they pulled three goals back, but Josh Martin’s goal saw the Bees go into the second intermission with the two-goal lead. Sam Bullas set up a frantic final period by making it 5-4, but Gabaj’s empty net goal sealed the points for the visitors.
Basingstoke Bison 4-3 Raiders (After OT)
The Bison claimed what will probably go down as the most dramatic victory of the season on Saturday night. They found themselves 3-0 down thanks to a Brandon Ayliffe hat-trick. The comeback began at 56:32 when Ashley Tait scored. Jay King brought them to within one at 57:08, and Tait levelled the scores with just two seconds to play in regulation. End of the drama? Absolutely not! Richard Bordowski completed the turnaround by striking the winner with just 1.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
Milton Keynes Lightning 2-5 Telford Tigers
A huge crowd in Milton Keynes saw the Lightning go down 5-2 to the league leading Telford Tigers. Grant McPherson put MKL ahead, before Dominik Florian levelled the scores five minutes later. The next goal didn’t come until 40:44, when Jason Silverthorn put the Tigers ahead. This began a sequence of three goals in six minutes, which put the Tigers in control. Andy McKinney sealed the deal for the Tigers, before Tomas Kana notched a late consolation for Lewis Clifford’s team.
Hull Pirates 4-3 Milton Keynes Lightning
David Norris was a thorn in the side of his former team on Sunday night as he scored twice for the Pirates in a close game at the Hull Arena. Cale Tanaka opened the scoring for MKL, but Norris pulled a goal back after 30 seconds of the second period. Liam Stewart put the Lightning back in front, but Norris struck again to tie the game. Kevin Phillips gave the Pirates the lead for the first time in the game, before Tanaka claimed his second of the night to make it three apiece. Matt Bissonnette was the hero for the Pirates on his return from injury, notching the winning goal with 51:40 on the clock.
Bracknell Bees 4-7 Basingstoke Bison
Bison completed a four point weekend with a high scoring win over the Bracknell Bees. Sean Norris, Sam Talbot (2), Ashley Tait, Richard Bordowski, Adam Harding and Michal Klejna all hit the net for the Bison, whilst Roman Malinik, Josh Ealey-Newman, Aidan Doughty and Dominik Gabaj scored for the Bees.
Peterborough Phantoms 7-6 Swindon Wildcats
Speaking of high scoring games, there was another one involving the Phantoms on Sunday night. Nathan and Conor Pollard starred as Slava Koulikov’s team picked up a seventh consecutive victory. Both Pollard brothers scored twice, whilst Callum Buglass, Glenn Billing and Ales Padelek also found the back of the net. Floyd Taylor, Tyler Plews (2), Chris Jones, Ben Nethersell and Aaron Nell scored for the Cats, but Nell’s side ended the weekend with zero points.
Telford Tigers 2-4 Sheffield Steeldogs
The Tigers came unstuck on home ice on Sunday night against the Sheffield Steeldogs. Brady Doxey put the Dogs ahead, before Jason Silverthorn levelled the scores just a minute and a half later. Alex Graham scored the next goal for the Dogs, sending them into the first break 2-1 ahead. The next goal came from the Tigers and again from Silverthorn, setting up a finely poised final frame. But Nathan Salem and Ben Morgan struck in the final four minutes to give the Steeldogs a valuable away win.
THE LEAGUE TABLE
Telford remain top of the table, six points ahead of the Swindon Wildcats.
Phantoms are in third, four points behind the Cats, with the Bison two points behind the Phantoms in fourth.
Next come the Hull Pirates in fifth and the Sheffield Steeldogs in sixth.
MKL move down to seventh after a pointless weekend, with the Raiders eight points behind them in eighth.
Bracknell remain ninth, two points behind Raiders. Leeds are tenth.
THE CUP FINAL
After four dramatic games of hockey in the semi-finals, it’s the Phantoms and the Tigers who will contest the first ever NIHL National Cup Final.
Details regarding dates, times and ticket info will be released in due course.