As the year came to a close the Cats had one final game to contend with. In front of a packed audience the visitors for the final game of 2016 were Guildford. The Flames themselves missing Matic Kralj & Andy Melachrino. The home side were missing the usual absentees with Adam Finlinson also missing, they were however boosted with the return of Michael Stratford from his loan with the Manchester Phoenix.
The Wildcats started strongly and created chances early on in the game. Phil Hill had an opportunity in the opening few shifts of the game but saw his shot blocked by the pads of Dean Skinns between the Flames pipes. At 7:40 the Wildcats opened the scoring. A flowing move between Max Birbraer & Phil Hill led the former Telford forward to a shot saved by Skinns. Unfortunately for Guildford, Wildcats captain Jan Kostal followed up on the rebound and slid the loose puck into the bottom corner.
At 8:47 it turned bad for Swindon when Max Birbraer was assessed a 5+Game penalty for a check to the head and would give the visitors a five minute powerplay. Despite valiant pressure from the Flames with Danny Meyers, Tom Duggan, Marek Maslonka & Michal Satek forcing chances Stevie Lyle stood strong and the penalty was killed. A couple of saves from both netminders saw us enter the period break with the hosts a goal up.
The middle period was equally as frantic and within the opening 63 seconds, the Flames had taken two penalties with both Jens Eriksson & Tom Duggan sitting for Interference and Slashing respectively. The Cats took advantage of this and at 21:15 they had doubled their advantage. Phil Hill won the face-off, Jonas Höög fed the puck to Tomasz Malasinski who fired a massive shot past Skinns into the top corner.
As the second period carried on the Flames created stronger scoring chances and were heating up the pressure on the Cats. The pressure eventually got to the home side as David Savage fired a quick shot from the point past Stevie Lyle into the top corner of the net to reduce the deficit to a single goal. The Flames got a confidence boost from this and the Wildcats needed to weather the storm until the end of the period.
At the start of the third period of hockey the Wildcats regained that all important two goal advantage. Sam Godfrey turned the puck over to Phil Hill who fired a big slapshot past Dean Skinns and the puck trickled over the line to give the home side a 3-1 lead at 40:19.
The goal unsettled the visitors who found themselves further behind again at 43:40 when a rare goal from Stevie Whitfield was enough to send the home fans wild and suffer a big body blow to the chances of the Flames getting back in the game. The contest turned into a forgone conclusion, the Wildcats were playing some very good shut-down hockey and the Flames had the wind taken from their sails with two quick goals.
With less than a minute to go in the final period, and with Neil Liddiard in the penalty box, the Flames did scramble a late consolation goal through Marek Maslonka but it wasn't enough to stop the Cats ending the year with a 4-2 win over the Flames.
Sunday sees the Cats start 2017 with a trip to Berkshire to face the Bracknell Bees.
Man Of The Match:
Swindon Wildcats - Phil Hill
Guildford Flames - Marek Maslonka