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ICE HOCKEY: Cats prove to be masters of the short story
SWINDON delivered a masterclass in short-handed defence as they defeated Slough 4-2 at the Hangar.
The Wildcats had to cope with 10 penalties during Saturday’s EPL clash, but incredibly only conceded twice, once even-handed and once during a five-on-three in favour of the hosts.
Although Slough outshot Ryan Aldridge’s men 46-29, many of these chances were far from clear-cut and the visitors’ resilience - coupled with an excellent display in goal by the recalled Dean Skinns - ensured a well-deserved victory.
It was a first win over the Berkshire outfit in three attempts this season and D-man Stevie Whitfield said it was two points earned by an impressive rearguard action.
“Sometimes having our backs against the wall brings the best out of our defence,” he said.
“All the guys are good at killing and we showed that again tonight. Ideally we’d play more even, but sometimes you have to (play short-handed).
“Slough have got a good powerplay but I think the guys worked well in the system and worked really hard, that’s all you can do.
“Every penalty kill is a real team effort. The forwards have got to work just as hard as the D and then on top of that the goalie has to make the saves, which Skinnsy did today, I thought he had a great game.”
Ciaran Long, a recent target for Swindon, was first to go close when he shot off the outside of the post, only for Swedish ace Jonas Hoog to put the visitors in front at the other end, the assists coming from new boys Henri Sandvik and Ollie Betteridge (10.53).
Wildcats were midway through killing their third penalty when Czech import Tomas Fojtik popped up in front of goal to double the advantage (14.56).
James Hutchinson struck Slough to within a goal at 25.30 but even after Shane Moore was handed a 2+10 for cross-checking, the Jets were hardly spurred into life.
Although possessing the superior shot count, these efforts were far from meaningful, and after Wildcats were given a powerplay opportunity head coach Ryan Aldridge twisted the knife as he converted from Hoog (34.14).
With Joe Baird and Paul Swindlehurst binned, Slough finally broke their powerplay duck at the sixth attempt, the towering Frantisek Bakrlik firing home at 38.37.
But that was as good as it got for the Jets, who failed to make the most of three more Swindon penalties in the third period.
There were confrontations between Sandvik and Matt Towalski and Bakrlik and Baird, but the only real moment of note arrived 12 seconds from time.
With Slough pushing for an equaliser and netminder Gregg Rockman pulled, Swindon broke out and Hoog provided his third assist of the night, centring for Sam Bullas to tap into the empty net.