RYAN Aldridge accused his players of being like “space cadets” as three goals in a little over five minutes during a slack second period cost Swindon Wildcats dear as they went down 4-1 at Guildford last night.
The Link Centre side, went into the game on the back of a 7-2 win over Telford on Saturday but were missing Jonas Hoog as a precaution due to an ongoing niggling injury.did Despite Hoog’s absence, Cats did well to stay with their hosts through an opening period which ended 1-1 but struggled to cope in the second session as the Flames proved too hot to handle.
While it was hard to fault the visitors’ effort and desire during the first and last periods as they out-shot Flames in their own back yard, the hosts were simply more clinical than Cats who missed the unpredictability and inspiration of last season’s EPL top scorer Hoog so often brings.
Aldridge was proud of his players’ efforts throughout the victory over Telford and two of the three sessions at Guildford, but admitted they made it hard for themselves following a sloppy second period at the Spectrum.
“I can’t fault a single guy from the victory on Saturday and I thought we were exceptional, but we only played for five periods over the weekend,” the Cats head coach said.
“Tonight (Sunday) we were like space cadets out there in the second period and to be honest it should have been a closer game because for 40 minutes we played well and out-shot them in their own building.
“I am a little more relaxed now because of the way we played in the third period but it is easy to get negative and down about it.”
“If we played the way we did against Telford every single night we would be sitting pretty and that’s the most frustrating thing.”
After face-off was delayed by 10 minutes it was the hosts who came out the blocks fastest and they soon took the lead with only 1.30 on the clock. Martin Opatovsky was given too much room behind the net, allowing him to pull the puck back for a grateful Marcus Kristoffersson who was on hand to slam into Stevie Lyle’s top left corner.
Wildcats were feeding off scraps for much of the first 10 minutes and it was the hosts who pushed to further their lead despite losing Dean Holland for two minutes for slashing.
Flames killed the penalty but almost as soon as the Brit returned to the ice his side were pegged back. The hosts were on another foray into Cats territory when the puck broke for Henri Sandvik off the boards and the Finn was afforded time to charge in on goal and coolly slot past Greg Rockman.
Floyd Taylor and Branislav Kvetan served almost simultaneous penalties for tripping and high sticks as the two teams continued to go toe-for-toe, although it was the Flames who threatened most before the end of the period as Kristoffersson flicked wide before David Longstaff, Ben Campbell and Andrew Hemmings saw efforts saved by Lyle.
Cats ended the period with Aku Pekkarinen in the bin for slashing but were able to kill the penalty at the start of the second before both sides traded jabs without ever threatening to hurt each other.
That all changed on 29.00 when Longstaff screened a pass across the Cats area for Milos Milicherik to convert and, as Cats looked to respond, Sandvik couldn’t get his shot off when eye to eye with netminder Rockman.
It went from bad to worse for Cats as Pekkarinen took his second set of two minutes of the evening for tripping and within a handful of seconds Flames made their man advantage count as Kristoffersson poached his second on 33.34 thanks to assists from Longstaff and Opatovsky.
A return to full strength failed to improve Cats fortunes as Guildford’s fourth soon arrived courtesy of an alert strike from Longstaff beat Lyle with less than five minutes remaining, before Kristoffersson rocketed a hurried effort against the glass.
Cats were presented with a golden opportunity to get back into it but neither Aaron Nell or Jan Kostal could take advantage of a poor Campbell pass before netminder Rockman saved well before poking clear with his stick.
The visitors had it all to do in the final period but in truth, despite being the better side and enjoying numerous forays into Flames territory, they never really looked like mounting an unlikely comeback before the final buzzer brought an end to proceedings.
It had been a different story the previous evening as Cats recorded an impressive victory over a Telford side proving a different animal than in previous years.
Nell got the party off and running as he beat former teammate Tom Murdy in the Tigers’ goal with two quick strikes, before Nathan Salem grabbed one back for the visitors.
Pekkarinen extended the lead after the break from the blue line before Sandvik struck the Cats’ fourth to all-but secure the points.
Jaroslav Kruzik grabbed one back to limit the damage before Ryan Watt put to bed any doubts with number five. Kostal added the sixth before Sam Smith completed the resounding home win.