SWINDON Wildcats narrowly missed out on a place in the National Cup final after going down on penalties to Telford Tigers on Wednesday night.

Following two legs of competitive ice hockey that ended all square, it took until the sixth and final penalty shot in Telford to determine which of the National League’s high-flyers would progress.

After shots failed to find the net from the Cats’ Tyler Vankleef, Aaron Nell and Tomasz Malasinski, Telford’s Brandon Whistle struck his effort past netminder Renny Marr to send the hosts through 11-10 on aggregate.

Swindon had opened up a 7-4 lead from the first leg and were in a commanding position to make it through with the aggregate score at 9-6 midway through the second leg’s middle period.

However, a late couple of home goals brought the score back from 10-8 to all square.

With no goals added in overtime, the Cats would have their hearts broken via the shootout.

Speaking after the devastating loss for his team, player-coach Nell said: “I’m gutted for the team and the fans.

“But we have to say congratulations to Telford because they were very good.

“We kept ourselves in a good spot for probably 50 minutes of the game, but there’s not much else to say.

“That was not very good for us – all we can do is congratulate Telford, learn from it.

“They did to us what we did to them at our rink, but it’s very tough to take.”

Nell scored the first goal of Wednesday night’s clash as a cagey first period ended 1-1.

And after Telford had nudged in front, Edgars Bebris squared the game up for the visitors on the half-hour mark.

Chris Jones brought a later deficit back to 4-3 as the cats put regained their two-goal aggregate lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Yet two goals – 20 seconds apart – in the final period proved significantly damaging for Nell’s men.

The Swindon player-coach was visibly disappointed after the game, but still found the courage to praise his team’s opposition for the spirit and fight they showed to claw a three-goal lead back.

Nell said: “Telford had nothing to lose tonight, and all credit to them because they were excellent.

“They were all over us, but we got ourselves in a good spot at the end of the first and in the second.

“There’s nothing much more I can say.

“It’s very disappointing, and I’m just gutted for the players and especially the fans who made the trip – we had great support tonight.

“I’m just gutted we didn’t go through.”