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Wildcats in shootout smash and grab
HEAD coach Ryan Aldridge was left both completely bemused and utterly delighted after Swindon Wildcats snatched a remarkable road win at Bracknell last night.
Trailing by a goal for nearly two-thirds of the contest, Sam Smith threw the visitors a lifeline when he equalised with 35 seconds left, and after a goalless extra period, Cats triumphed in the shootout to take a 2-1 EPL-Cup win.
Juha Silvander and Aku Pekkarinen both converted with consummate class while netminder Stevie Lyle - in scintillating form as he kept out 50 shots out of 51 in open play - saw Kamil Tvrdek fire wide before saving from Shaun Thompson.
The result was staggering given Bracknell’s dominance, with the Bees outshooting their visitors 51-24 on the night.
However, Cats’ persistence coupled with a huge slice of good fortune and the heroics of Lyle, handed them a four-point weekend following the 5-4 victory over the Berkshire side the previous night.
A gleeful Aldridge struggled to comprehend the result when questioned by the Advertiser afterwards, admitting: “I feel a bit guilty for taking the points.
“It’s funny, we played our best game of the year last weekend (against MK Lightning) and lost, and tonight we probably played the worst game of our season and won.
“I don’t think we played very good. Stevie hasn’t been himself the last few games but he stood on his head.
“He’s been disappointed with himself of late but tonight he showed what he is capable of and why we brought him in.
“It was an ugly game and we weren’t good enough, simple as that. But a win’s a win and we’re happy with it.”
There was no doubt which side was on top in the first period. Bracknell played with energy and enthusiasm and the visitors regularly found themselves chasing shadows.
Lyle was busy from the opening seconds and Silvander was required to sweep up in front of goal with less than a minute played.
Swindon - missing banned Finn Henri Sandvik - barely forced Tom Annetts into a save of note in the first 15 minutes while Scott Spearing was among the multiple Bees players to worry Lyle.
When Smith was called for tripping, the alarm bells were ringing, but Cats survived the penalty thanks in no small part to a couple of classy saves from their goaltender.
In addition, Pavel Strycek and Lukas Smital tried their luck as the period came to a close, to no avail.
The hosts finally got the opener their play deserved at the start of the second. With Sam Bullas binned for hooking, Sam Oakford fired at Lyle’s near post and after the Welshman could not gather with the glove, Ollie Bronnimann stabbed home at the second attempt.
In spite of the goal, Swindon had actually begun the second period relatively positively and they had a terrific chance to level when Adam Harding and Alex Symonds broke through two on one, only for the former to send his shot high and wide.
The period then turned into a fractious, penalty-laden affair that kicked off in earnest when Spearing was handed a 2+10 for checking from behind, while Symonds was given a roughing penalty for his part in the incident.
An additional four on four followed but neither yielded a goal for either side, although Jonas Hoog wound up Strycek by flying past his man and getting off a decent shot that Annetts saved.
The period ended with Smith exchanging a punch or two at Strycek, but neither player was punished for the episode that was little more than handbags.
Cats skipper Shane Moore was required to intervene to deny Thompson a clear run on goal at the start of the third, but the visitors were extremely fortunate to escape when hesitation several minutes later nearly resulted in Rob Lamey doubling the lead.
Plenty of penalties followed, which contributed to an overall total of 15 during the contest and made free-flowing hockey hard to come by.
Spearing was hardly endearing himself to the visiting supporters although they enjoyed the powerplays that resulted from his misdemeanours, but Swindon were unable to capitalise.
Pekkarinen blocked a Spearing square pass that might have given the Bees their second while Sam Godfrey also dived in to stop Bronnimann in his tracks when bearing down on Lyle.
Somehow the hosts managed to spurn a double powerplay after Adam Harding and then Godfrey were called, but with a minute left it looked as if Swindon might have blown their chance when they were penalised for too many men, making the contest a four on four as Thompson was off for holding.
However, Ollie Betteridge played his part in the move that allowed Smith to level matters and after the extra five minutes, Swindon claimed a remarkable victory on penalty shots.
On Saturday, Swindon defeated the Bees despite trailing 2-1 at the first break.
Minutes after levelling in the opening period, Sandvik was handed a match penalty for high sticks, while Smital and Lamey scored either side of that effort for the Bees.
Hoog, Silvander and Smith put Wildcats 4-2 ahead in the second period before Tvrdek pulled one back early in the third on the powerplay.
However, Hoog grabbed another at 49.03 to secure the home side two points.
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