The Wildcats recorded a 3-0 victory over the Tigers at the Link Centre following a 3-2 loss in overtime the previous weekend. The first period was a tight affair, with the Tigers probably just shading it; Dan Davies came the closest to opening the scoring with a backhand effort that beat Stevie Lyle, but hit the pipes.
The Wildcats opened the scoring early in the second period through new signing Carlo Finucci, who fired into the roof of the net on Gospel’s nearside. The game then settled into a pattern, with the Tigers applying plenty of pressure (without really troubling Lyle), with the Wildcats breaking dangerously occasionally.
The third continued in a similar fashion, with the Tigers camped inside the Wildcats zone, but unable to score. There was a flashpoint in the third, with Finucci kneeing Jason Silverthorn, which saw players grabbing hold of one another, but only Neil Liddiard and Sam Zajac picked up penalties and joined Finucci in the box. They ended up being joined moments later by Rick Plant and Jan Kostal, who were pushing and shoving off the puck.
The Wildcats second goal came with just under 10 minutes to play and was a shorthanded goal – a poor pass from Joe Graham was picked up and Tomasz Malasinski fired past Gospel. The Tigers continued to apply pressure, but the Wildcats completed the scoring with just over a minute to go as Malasinski added his second of the night.
The game marked another loss for the Tigers where they have out-shot their opponents. Despite plenty of shots, Stevie Lyle was rarely tested, with many of the saves being fairly routine. The Tigers seemed to struggle to get traffic in front of Lyle and any rebounds were quickly gobbled up by defenders and the puck removed from the danger zone. Lyle got man of the match following the shut out, but I was more impressed with the work of the defenders, who got in the way of shots and kept really good chances to a minimum; Stevie Whitfield in particular always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
As well as being unable to convert a large number of shots into any goals, the Tigers also struggled defensively, with mistakes at the back gifting the puck to Swindon players. With the exception of the ever-dependable Zajac, the defenders looked nervous and unsure, failing with checks. However, they were not always being helped out by the forwards, who seemed to be letting players go past them without skating back, notably Max Birbraer in the first period, which gave Danny Rose little option but to concede a tripping a penalty.
Tom Watkins called a timeout in the second period and was very animated, but it only seemed that the clash in third period brought real intensity into the play of the Tigers; too many battles were lost along the boards and the Wildcats seemed to win plenty of 50/50s. Watkins has called for performances to improve otherwise changes will be made – it will be interesting to see what will happen and what they changes will be if/when they are made.
SOG: Wildcats: 25 (16-6-7); Tigers: 46 (15-15-16)
PIMs: Wildcats: 16 (2-2-12); Tigers: 10 (4-0-6)
MOTM: Wildcats: Stevie Lyle (100% saves); Tigers: Sam Zajac (4 PIMs)
Points: Malasinski 2+0; Finucci 1+0; Nell 0+2; Ryhanen, Richardson 0+1