No excuses as Lightning strikes twice

ALL-ACTION: Aaron Nell piles the pressure on during Saturday's loss at the Link

ALL-ACTION: Aaron Nell piles the pressure on during Saturday's loss at the Link

First published in Ice Hockey Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy sports editor, awarren@swindonadvertiser.co.uk, @AndyWarren_

SWINDON coach Ryan Aldridge refused to use Wildcats’ injury problems as an excuse for their double defeat at the hands of MK Lightning at the weekend.

The Link Centre side were without Shane Moore and imports Matias Perkkio and Michal Kapicka for the 6-3 home defeat on Saturday and last night’s 3-0 loss at the Thunderdome, leaving Aldridge with a lack of options on his bench. The Cats’ boss set his stall out to defend in Buckinghamshire last night, but they were punished for their slow start and never managed to claw their way back into the game, with a superb display from netminder Dean Skinns keeping the score down.

Aldridge believes the lack of numbers played a major part in both losses, but refused to let his remaining players use their missing colleagues as an excuse.

“It has been a very tough weekend because we were very short benched, and with that in mind we went out with a defensive minded system,” he said.

“We were flat, and we were flat all weekend, and we need to freshen it up a little bit.

“We are starting games badly, and we can’t use the excuses of having a short bench, and we need to move on.

“Jonas (Hoog) missed an empty net which could have changed the game and Aaron (Nell) had a few chances, and the younger guys played well which is a real plus to take.

“But we can’t use excuses, and we need to get ourselves out of the situation.”

The visitors were quickly on the back foot at the start of last night’s game, and netminder Skinns had to be alert to deny an early effort from Canadian Nick Poole.

Hoog was soon making a nuisance of himself and had the Cats’ first effort of the night, but after seeing his shot saved Swindon quickly had to settle back into defence as Lukas Zatopek fired a vicious effort narrowly over.

The Wildcats’ netminder was in superb form, and was quickly needed to save his team twice in quick succession as first Blaz Emersic and then Adam Brittle brought the best out of him, with the second effort a stunning stop.

The peppering continued as Skinns saved from Ross Green, but the Cats soon had a rare foray into opposition territory as Sam Bullas forced a good stop from home keeper Alex Mettam.

Clever work from Jonas Hoog gave Aaron Nell his first chance of the evening, but after Mettam pulled off another superb save Skinns came to the rescue once again as he saved Adam Carr’s effort, and required treatment afterwards.

He bravely soldiered on, but was soon beaten as Brittle slid the puck to Emersic who tucked it home to earn his side a deserved lead at the end of the first period.

Skinns started the second period in the same way as the first as he made a magnificent one-handed save from Brittle, but he was quickly beaten again as Chris Wiggins rammed the puck home from close range to double the home advantage.

After Poole was given two minutes for hooking Paul Swindlehurt Nell, Hoog and Joe Baird all had efforts blocked as the Wildcats tried to make their man advantage count, but the visitors soon had to survive two penalties of their own as Hoog and Nell were both sent to cool off.

Confusion reigned as Brittle slapped in a shot from out wide, leaving the puck in the back of the net, but it clearly went in a hole in the side-netting. The goal was given as the Wildcats’ protest began, but commonsense finally prevailed and it was ruled out.

Hoog had the last chance of the period for the visitors, but his effort flew wide when he really should have found the net, and the Cats were nearly made to pay at the start of the third, as both Emersic and Chinn hit the post in a matter of second.

Both sides struggled to make their power plays count, but the home side did soon add the finishing touch as Zatopek rammed home into an empty net after Skinns was pulled.

It was a similar story at the Link Centre on Saturday night, as the Cats never came back from going behind in the third minute, despite two goals from Nell and one from Nicky Watt.

Wildcats skipper Nell believes his side need to be starting games quicker if they are to arrest their slump in form.

“We have got to start better, it is simple,” he said.

“The home game was disappointing because we always want to win at home, and we can’t start that badly at the Link Centre and look to win.

“We came out flat, and we can’t keep doing that.

“We did our best in the away game, and we came out to defend, but we struggled to make chances which cost us.”

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