SWINDON WILDCATS: Last-gasp defeat hard to take for Aldridge
RYAN Aldridge admitted he found it difficult to accept last night's 5-4 defeat at Manchester, after Wildcats were denied at least a point in dramatic circumstances.
Matias Perkkio bundled into the net with little over 40 seconds to play, but the goal was ruled out.
It was hard luck on the visitors, who had battled back superbly from 5-2 down.
However, it was only to prove a two-point weekend for the Link Centre side following their 3-2 victory over Telford on Saturday.
On last night, head coach Aldridge said: “We were in the game but I didn’t think we had a great first period, and I thought we were very sloppy in the first 10 minutes of the second period.
“But for the last half of the game I thought we were the better team, and to bring it back to 5-4 and be so close time and time again, even to score the goal and get it disallowed, is a tough one to swallow.
“They scored one exactly the same on the powerplay in the middle period, but ours was disallowed.”
Despite his generally upbeat view of the display, Aldridge reiterated once more that his players cannot afford to go missing in games.
He said: “We stop playing for five or 10 minutes at a time and we need to learn how to settle down and be a team. It’s getting a bit too much now.
“I’m sick and tired of saying to the boys that we need to play for 60 minutes.”
Phoenix player-coach Tony Hand began last night’s encounter by cracking an early warning off-target and moments after Perkkio had been nailed, Nicky Watt won his brawl with a worse-for-wear James Archer, with both sent to the box for roughing.
A flurry of goals followed in a six-minute period. First Andy McKinney put Manchester one up from close range (6.10), before Jonas Hoog broke clear out of nowhere and after bringing the puck under control on the stretch, coolly beat Steve Fone (10.43).
The visitors’ joy was shortlived as Scott McKenzie (11.32) and Michal Psurny (12.23) took the lead out to 3-1.
However, at 18.08 Perkkio showed his class with clever stick work and his flicked effort from close in pinged in off the pipes and gave Wildcats renewed hope.
Manchester began the second period strongly and got their reward through Luke Boothroyd on the powerplay, who shot past a pile of players and beyond gloveman Dean Skinns (26.23).
Ciaran Long then improvised brilliantly at 27.58 as he plucked the puck out of the air and immediately drilled into the roof of the net.
But then, in somewhat unlikely circumstances, Wildcats pulled one back. With Shane Moore off the ice for hooking, Lee Richardson released Aaron Nell and he provided a super top-shelf finish that brought the score back to 5-3 (32.23).
The rest of the second session was a bitty affair with several players binned, while in a rare purple patch, Watt flashed across goal and Michal Kapicka also had a decent chance.
The home faithful were considerably unimpressed when Long was given a 10+2 penalty for a check to the head, but the shorthanded Phoenix survived the remainder of the period.
Cats gave themselves yet more momentum at 41.51 as Perkkio burst down the right and laid into the path of Watt, who made the most of the three-on-two situation by squeezing low into the left corner.
The period evened out and midway through Skinns spilled in front of goal, but the visitors were not punished. Minutes later Archer was denied by the pipes and it was evident the Phoenix were upping the pressure as they looked for the killer goal.
Swindon responded with a couple of efforts of heir own, the latter seeing the puck fizz across the face with Kapicka just unable to get his stick to it.
The game finished in dramatic circumstances as Wildcats entered the final couple of minutes with a powerplay opportunity.
Although they did force the puck into the net with 42 seconds left through Perkkio, the goal was ruled out by the referee and the visitors could force no further chances.
Meanwhile, Swindon notched up their first win of the EPL season on Saturday with a hard-fought victory over Telford at the Link Centre.
Hoog got Cats off and running at 3.49 when he struck home on the rebound after Paul Swindlehurst's shot was repelled.
At 10.36 Hoog teed up Perkkio and the Finnish import fired a one-timer into the net.
Telford pulled a goal back through former Cat Jaroslav Cesky, who picked up a loose puck to score over the shoulder of netminder Skinns (11.33) The equaliser came seconds from the end of the second period, with James Preece tapping in on the rebound (39.29) The decisive moments arrived in the third period, as Thomas Soar and Jaroslav Kruzik were binned, leading to a five on three powerplay opportunity.
Kapicka took full advantage at 51.42 with a one-timer to beat Declan Ryan.
The end result was tough on the Telford netminder, who saved 95 per cent of shots on his goal, but in the end Swindon’s superior shot count of 55 to Tigers’ 29 told a telling story.