SWINDON WILDCATS: Wildcats survive MK fightback
SWINDON held off a tremendous Milton Keynes fightback to win an extraordinary game of ice hockey 5-4 at the Thunderdome.
The Link Centre side led 5-0 shortly into the second period on Saturday, which included a stunning 12-minute hat-trick by Aaron Nell, only for the hosts to dominate the remainder of proceedings and bring it back to 5-4.
Having withstood a six-on-three in the closing moments, Swindon then had Blaz Emersic to thank when the Slovenian fluffed his lines on a penalty shot with less than five seconds left.
The visitors then held out in the final seconds to record their first win over the Lightning this season, having previously suffered defeat three times at the hands of Nick Poole's men.
Pre-match, Swindon head coach Ryan Aldridge made the decision to sacrifice D-man Jan Melichar as he brought new import Henri Sandvik into the side, while Ollie Betteridge also made his debut.
And the pair had a dream start to life in Swindon jerseys in the opening period. Nell put the Wildcats ahead at 4.02 and then turned provider as Jonas Hoog doubled the advantage (6.24).
Sandvik scored his first point when he gained an assist in Nell's second (10.56), before Nell completed his quickfire hat-trick (11.32).
MK replaced netminder Alex Mettam with Stephen Wall in a bid to stem the tide, but Matias Perkkio still managed to squeeze another shot home at 21.22.
Some 58 seconds after Cats' fifth, MK began their comeback through Emersic, and after Swindon killed penalties on Tomas Fojtik and Shane Moore, Emersic got his second.
With seven seconds of period two remaining, Poole put serious doubt in the visitors' minds when he made it 5-3.
The stage was set for a dramatic final 20 minutes, and it certainly did not disappoint.
At 47.47 the Lightning brought themselves to within a goal courtesy of Kamil Tvrdek on the powerplay, before blowing a glorious five-on-three opportunity.
In a nerve-jangling finale, Swindon somehow survived a five-on-three and a six-on-three, before Emersic appeared to foul on his penalty shot and the Cats closed out the closing seconds.
Aldridge said afterwards: “I'm very pleased because it could have gone either way. There was a few people in that building who were thinking it wasn't our night.
“We played well in the first period and everything was working well for us.
“Then we started making a few silly mistakes on D - not moving our feet and not being strong enough.
“But we managed to win in the end and we're especially pleased as we did that in their building.”
Last night’s return clash at the Link Centre was called off due to adverse weather conditions.
Meanwhile, Nell is set to begin a two-day training camp with Great Britain in Manchester today, with a view to making the squad for final Winter Olympic qualifiers in Latvia next month.