HAT-TRICK hero Aaron Nell was relieved there was little rustiness on display as Swindon stormed to a 7-3 victory over Peterborough at the Link Centre yesterday afternoon.
The Wildcats had previously lost to their EPL rivals by a goal on three separate occasions this season, but were in uncompromising mood in a bruising encounter.
The result came as a boost to skipper Nell following a recent period of inactivity for him and his team.
“It was good to get the win and there’s relief there after not being on the ice for 10 days, and having had one game in 18 days,” he said.
“I was a bit worried coming in after having so much time off and it took a while to get into, but it was good we won. We had to have belief that we could win and we won in style I guess.
“I think they were getting very frustrated, especially their big D-man (Jozef Sladok), but we didn’t let them get to us too much and guys stuck up for themselves, so that was really good.
“There were some really nice plays by the guys tonight and I was able to get some easy goals.”
Wildcats led 3-2 after the first period but could quite conceivably have been three goals up.
They seized the advantage with just 30 seconds played when in amongst a mass of sticks, head coach Ryan Aldridge pushed in from close range.
With just 3.29 on the clock, home forward Nicky Watt was handed a match penalty for high sticks to the face, and Swindon were unable to defend the resulting five-minute spell a man down.
A matter of seconds had passed following Watt’s exit when Sladok poked into the net from Tom Carlon and Ondrej Lauko (4.14).
But the hosts’ lead was restored at 7.02 as Aaron Nell batted the puck off the boards and Jonas Hoog raced through unchallenged to flick past Damien King.
Hoog could have doubled his personal tally with a one-on-one, but the Swede could not find a way past the Phantoms netminder on that occasion.
Youngster Floyd Taylor tried his luck from wide on the right but moments later it was his brother Loris who was on the scoresheet, seizing on Nell’s inside pass to finish with ease.
D-man Paul Swindlehurst and Nell went close in quick succession and then Swindon were made to pay for their profligacy, as the visitors brought themselves to within a goal at 11.37.
Joe Baird was left to defend a three-pronged Peterborough attack and predictably, Lewis Hook forced the puck over the line from Maris Ziedins’ pass, although only just.
Swindon roared out of the blocks at the start of period two, when a matter of moments after Sam Bullas was binned for interference, Nell tapped in Tomas Fojtik’s pass at the far post (21.08).
Nell nearly teed up Hoog for his second, but the import did not make a meaningful connection on the square pass and the puck skidded wide.
That was a mistake Nell didn’t make when he took up a similar position to that he occupied on his first goal, stabbing Hoog’s pass home at the post for 5-2.
Bullas might have had Swindon’s sixth and having barely had any chances of note in the second period, the visitors pulled one back at 35.45 through Hook.
Nell fired an immediate warning with a shot off the pipes, before Wildcats had a goal that seemed to be thrown in disallowed.
The third period was quiet until the final six minutes when fists rivalled sticks as the weapon of choice.
Aldridge went toe to toe with Sladok after a huge body hit and Watt had to be restrained from taking it further despite having been removed from the action.
Wildcats put the gloss on victory courtesy of Hoog, who sent home a thundering slapshot at 55.08 after the puck broke free from a group of players in front of goal.
Nell completed his hat-trick at 59.14 when his speculative strike found a path through several bodies and rippled the net.
There was still time for Loris Taylor to trade punches with Joe Graham with 30 seconds to spare, but it was the overall fight that Swindon had already emphatically won.