Swindon Wildcats encountered a tough first weekend back on the ice in the NIHL Spring Cup in a home and away series with the Sheffield Steeldogs the Wildcats found themselves on the end of two defeats.
Saturday evening saw the Wildcats head back to the ice for the first time since the November Streaming Series against a much stronger Sheffield outfit. With guys like David Phillips, Jonathan Phillips, and Liam Kirk joining the Yorkshire side the NIHL Spring Cup was already shaping up to be an exciting tournament.
An opening first period saw the game level at one goal apiece, an early powerplay goal from Liam Kirk was canceled out by the first goal of the evening from Wildcats Player-Coach Aaron Nell. The middle period would prove to be much of the same, however this time the Cats who snuck ahead through a shorthanded Nell goal before Liam Kirk tied the game up at 28:23.
Into the third period and the Wildcats fell behind to a further who goals from NHL Draft Pick Liam Kirk. Taking his goal tally to 4 it was an already impressive performance with the brightest prospect in UK hockey. With time running out the home side managed to halve the deficit when Head Coach Aaron Nell completed his hat-trick at 57:30, after a tip in front of the net from a Tomasz Malasinski shot.
With a single goal game, the Cats rolled the dice and pulled Renny Marr, unfortunately, the Dogs were able to capitalise when Ben O’Connor sealed an empty-net goal for the 5-3 lead. However, seconds later Toms Rutkis was able to score his first goal of the tournament before the final whistle blew on a narrow 5-4 loss.
In Sunday’s return fixture, a poor start in the first period saw the Wildcats fall 3-0 down thanks to goals from Ben O’Connor, Liam Kirk & Jason Hewitt. In the middle period, it got worse before it got better when Alex Graham put the hosts 4-0 up. In the second half of the game the Wildcats played a more complete game and with Jordan Marr making some solid saves on his temporary debut, they did manage to get on the board in the middle stanza.
Balint Pakozdi got his first of the year firing a shot from a very tight angle into the Steeldogs net. IN the third period a moment a young player making the first steps in his adult career will never forget happened. Reed Sayers scored his first goal for the senior Wildcats side late in the final period but it was too little too late and the hosts completed a 4-2 victory.
This coming weekend sees the Wildcats take on the Bees in a back-to-back weekend of afternoon face-offs. 3 PM this Saturday at the Better Link Centre before a 2 PM face-off on Sunday as the Bees IHC make their home debut in their new home in Slough.