Match report from:
It took just thirty-seconds to register the first shot of the night when Steeldogs’ Dmitry Rodin let fire at the Wildcats net in spectacular fashion, however Dean Skinns was fully alert to the danger and parried the effort to save the home side’s blushes.
Seconds later it was the home side that had the puck in the oppositions end but after a series of efforts, the home side were unable to break through the resolute Dimitri Zimozdra in the visitors goal.
There was no time for napping however, as seconds later the impressive Greg Wood had picked up the loose puck and powered his way through the middle of the rink from a defensive position and unchallenged, found himself in front of the Wildcats net where he coolly slotted the puck beyond Skinns to put the visitors ahead.
With the Steeldogs leading, Ashley Calvert had the opportunity to double the score after a neat one-two saw him move up the ice into a dangerous position, but before he was able to release his shot, the Cats to their credit, had managed to regroup and stole the puck from the end of his stick.
The game continued to flow between both ends of the ice and after Höög had seen a speculative strike float well wide, Nell had two superb chances to draw the home side level, but as he tried to force the puck through a mass of Steeldogs defenders, the captain found himself tripped over by Pavel Gomeniuk, who showed the first signs of ill-discipline of the night.
By now the match was all Wildcats, but the Steeldogs are certainly strong in defence and were more than comfortable with everything that was being thrown at them and there was little being demonstrated in terms of their much touted “over-physical game” and with some slick passing, they were looking an impressive side on the counter-attack and indeed they found themselves further ahead against the run of play with just under six-minutes on the clock. Edgars Bebris crafted a goal out of nothing which slid under Skinns who would have been disappointed not to have kept the puck out of his net.
Two-nil down, the Cats continued to fight back through Michal Kapicka who hit a cracking effort which sailed through the air but the import was denied by yet more outstanding heroics by Zimozdra and when several Wildcats players got through, none could convert their chances passed the talented Russian, much to the relief of the visiting side.
Midway through the first period, the Steeldogs found themselves on the ascendancy as they continued to display some very entertaining hockey, and both Craig Elliott and Stuart Brittle forced magnificent point blank saves from Skinns and when the Wildcats did find themselves getting forward, the Dogs were managing to get everyone back behind the puck in a demonstration of real team effort.
The second period started in much the same manner as the first, but this time it was Tom Squires who produced an amazing reflex save from Skinns after he surprised everyone with a good spin and shot from eight yards out, but it wasn’t long before the Steeldogs went three ahead, when Gomeniuk smashed a ten-yard effort into the back of the Wildcats net, giving Skinns no chance and the strike had both sets of fans applauding his effort.
Three down but the Wildcats looked anything but out in what was a thoroughly entertaining affair and Nicky Watt added to the enjoyment when the gloves came off against Elliott in a fight which eventually saw the referee having to take Watt to the floor in order to stop the bout. Both players receiving 2+2 for roughing for their trouble.
The game began to become more physical as the period progressed and Steeldogs Derek Campbell began putting himself about however after trying to wind-up Nell, the Cats got the breakthrough they so rightly deserved on 26-minutes and 49-seconds when Nell saw another one of his shot parried by Zimozdra, but this time Kapicka was on hand to pick up the loose puck and slot it beyond the stranded netminder.
Kapicka went close shortly after the restart, however the Steeldogs continued to defend in numbers and the gloves were off yet again midway through the second period when Campbell tried to take on Nell so Watt accepted the challenge on his behalf.
Despite the Steeldogs calling time-out to disrupt a period of sustained Wildcats pressure where Kapicka and Jamie Hayes both saw efforts go narrowly wide, it was far from one-way traffic as Squires was also denied when he found himself in a one-on-one with Skinns and the play really was keeping supporters on the edge of their seats.
Shortly before the break, the Cats reduced the deficit when Sam Bullas reacted quickest to another loose puck following sustained pressure from Nell and Höög and the Wildcats had been lining up to take shots at goal and within what seemed like seconds of the restart, it was all square when Kapicka was setup by Mathias Perkkiö who was showing more urgency to get to the puck then the opposition.
The third period saw the Steeldogs coming out with more fight than their hosts, but the Wildcats were equal to the challenge and quickly got themselves back up to tempo. Even so, they soon gave away another soft goal when with just under four minutes of the restart gone, Ben Morgan scored a goal out of nothing – and so began a Wildcats onslaught.
The supporters responded in great fashion and raised the atmosphere as they sensed the Cats were looking to win the game and Hayes gave the fans – and the coach what they were looking for with a great strike minutes later assisted by Perkkiö and Chris Jones.
Thirty-seconds later the Cats were ahead for the first time in the game after a Nell shot was pushed to the ice and Höög slotted in from close range, but with the netminder downed, the referee ruled out the goal much to the disappointment of the home fans.
Failing to be out-done by the decision, Höög showed brilliant stick skills less than thirty-seconds later and he did give the home side the lead and the crowd erupted.
A salvo of Wildcats shots followed, but Zimozdra somehow managed to keep the Wildcats at bay and the visitors managed to level the scores with another soft goal, this time from Wood, but it was nothing more than they deserved for their part in a fantastic display of hockey.
There was plenty more Wildcats pressure to follow, but the home side were unable to break their way through a strong Steeldogs defence and although Perkkiö hit the post in the final seconds, a point each was a fair reflection of the effort displayed by both teams.
Into over-time and it was a similar tale to when the two-sides met up in Sheffield in September. The Cats began with a player less, but this time, there was more determination to win and by the time they returned to full strength, there was still nothing to separate the two sides. The Steeldogs will probably count themselves fortunate when Campbell kept his cool to win the extra point for his side as shortly before scoring, he appeared to have been the instigator of a punch that was thrown in a scuffle in front of the Wildcats net that was waved off by the referee.
While the result was disappointing, the game certainly wasn’t and with both sides playing some fantastic hockey .
Many thanks to: http://www.swindonwildcats.com/
See also: http://www.swindonhockey.co.uk/index.php