Swindon Wildcats completed their NIHL Spring Cup with a mixed weekend of results after a big home win against the Bees IHC on Saturday afternoon before a narrow loss on the road in Sheffield on Sunday night.
Saturday afternoon was the final home game for Aaron Nell and his troops. With the local rivals the Bees coming to town there was a feel of competitiveness in the air and the fans tuning at home were getting ready for a nail-biting contest. For Swindon, the start couldn’t have got any better. Through the first three shots of the game, the Wildcats found their first three goals. Jordan Kelsall converting two goals, either side of a Ben Nethersell goal too. This gave the Cats a 3-0 lead after just 02:16.
The first period continued to be a dominating one for the home side as despite Adam Goss replacing Danny Milton in the Bees net, the lead was extended from 3-0 to 5-0 before the end of the opening period. At 11:48 Reed Sayers was on hand to score his third goal of the tournament before Player Coach Aaron Nell added a 5th at 14:58.
Right at the start of the middle period, the Bees got themselves on the board when Vanya Antonov scored his first of the evening at 21:12. Just after the halfway mark, the Wildcats continued their onslaught when Aaron Nell added his second of the evening at 31:20, on the powerplay. Swindon would score two more powerplay goals at 36:37 & 37:03 through Matthew Myers & Tomasz Malasinski with the four assists going to Toms Rutkis, Ben Davies, Balint Pakozdi, and Aaron Nell. The middle stanza would finish with the Cats holding a commanding 8-1 lead.
The final period would see the Wildcats add just a single goal to their tally when Reed Sayers scored his second of the evening at 47:48. The 8 goal advantage prompted the hosts into swapping Renny Marr for Michael Crisp for the final 11 minutes. With the Cats looking to preserve the lead and save bodies for the Sunday game, the Bees were able to score two late consolation goals through Josh Smith & Lewis Hook as the game finished with a big 9-3 win for the Wildcats.
On Sunday evening the Cats faced the champions-elect Sheffield Steeldogs, who knew a home win would seal a perfect championship for the Dogs with 12 wins from 12 games. At the end of the first period, the Cats held the slender lead as an early Alex Graham strike was cancelled out by goals from Matthew Myers & Tomasz Malasinski.
However, by the end of the second period, the game was tied at 3-3. Jason Hewitt and Liam Kirk scored for the Steeldogs on either side of a superb goal from Toms Rutkis to ensure the game was tied after 40 minutes. In the final period, the Steeldogs quality shone through with Liam Kirk completing his hat-trick on the night for his 20th and 21st goals of the tournament. At 55:36 Balint Pakozdi reduced the Cats deficit to a single goal but it was not enough to spoil the Dogs party as they rounded off a 5-4 win, before lifting the trophy a few moments later.
The Spring Cup proved to be a memorable tournament for staff, players and fans with some big wins and tough losses along the way. Despite finishing in third place the Wildcats will have felt like winners having been back on the ice and entertaining the ever-loyal fans at home.