SWINDON Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell admitted tonight’s draw against Sheffield Steeldogs felt like a win after a pair of third period goals rescued a draw in the National Cup Final first leg.
Wildcats trailed 2-0 entering the final period in Yorkshire after two powerplay goals in the middle period from Tim Smith and Cameron Brownley earned the hosts a two-goal advantage.
But a determined Cats side beat Steeldogs netminder Dmitri Zimozdra twice in four minutes to balance the tie ahead of Sunday’s second leg at the Link Centre, to the delight of more than 100 travelling fans.
Nell said: “It feels like a win.
“After the second period I would’ve bit a hand off to have a third period like that with the two goals we scored.
“Even at the start of the game and the whole situation getting up here – if someone said we were going to tie the game tonight I would’ve been happy.
“I’m delighted with the players who have been fantastic all year.”
Wildcats’ task was made tougher before a puck had been dropped after heavy traffic on the way to Yorkshire delayed Cats’ journey by two hours.
After being absent from the ice for 17 days, Cats hit the ice immediately after arriving at IceSheffield as the home side delayed face-off by 10 minutes.
And the circumstances were far from ideal for Nell and his troops.
He said: “It’s tough being on a bus for such a long time, added to that we haven’t played for two-and-a-half weeks.
“I was happy with the way we played (before the two goals) but to get our goals at the end was massive.
“Their netminder had a great game.
“We had to get traffic in front of net, the goals were not pretty.
“We’re delighted and looking forward to Sunday.
“We’ve been good at home all year. We have to come out as we have in our last few home games.
“Hopefully we can be on the right side of a win.”
The second leg of the National Cup Final takes place at the Link Centre on Sunday, April 15, at 4pm.