A Sam Bullas goal was enough to secure a 3-2 overtime victory as the Wildcats started home games in 2017 with a win against the Hull Pirates.
The game began in quick fashion with chances falling at both ends of the ice, but it would be the hosts who took immediate advantage through an unlikely hero. At 8:17 the duo of Jonas Höög & Jordan Kelsall combined to find Canadian D man Mark Smith rushing in from the point and he shot the pick high into the top corner of the net to give the hosts the lead.
As the Cats found themselves in penalty trouble at the back end of the opening period the Pirates were finding ways to carve opportunities in front of the Swindon net. Andrej Themar & Dominic Osman both testing Stevie Lyle in the pipes. At 19:57 the Pirates got that goal, Andrej Themar & Jamie Chilcott were able to find Jason Hewitt who tucked the puck home for the Pirates with just three seconds to play in the period.
The goal gave the visitors momentum going into the middle stanza, their high tempo game of hockey was working and again they were creating goal scoring opportunities with Andy Hirst and Ugnius Cizas threatening Stevie Lyle. That said, Swindon had big plays of their own and the 'twenties' line of Phil Hill, Max Birbraer & Jan Kostal were linking up really well, with all three having shots saved by Jordan Marr at the Pirates end of the ice.
At 36:32 however, the Pirates scored their second powerplay goal of the evening. The import duo of Dominic Osman and then Andrej Themar combined with the latter producing a lovely pass across the crease to the stick of Nathan Salem who was able to tap home and give Hull the lead going into the final period.
Swindon knew they had to score, and began to take more control on the game. Every shift the lines were putting more pressure on the forecheck and forcing the Pirates deeper into their defensive end. Floyd Taylor, Jan Kostal, Sam Bullas & Tomasz Malasinski all making big hits to win the puck back for the hosts.
The game plan was executed perfectly at 52:00 when Floyd Taylor had some superb work behind the net and along the boards rewarded when his pass to Jan Kostal was turned under the pads of Marr by the Wildcats captain, bringing the game level at 2-2. Despite a tremendous glove save by Marr to deny Phil Hill shortly after, the game finished level at two and therefore into overtime.
The sudden death period was as end to end as the game. Andrej Themar had the chance to win the game but Stevie Lyle pulled off an unbelievable save to stop him and Neil Liddiard was on hand to clear the puck to safety and allow Lyle time to compose himself again.
With less than two minutes to go, Max Birbraer worked hard behind the net and centred the puck to an unmarked Sam Bullas who was able to just lift the puck over the shoulder of Marr and seal the bonus point for the Cats, and securing the fourth win in a row.
Sunday sees Swindon travel to Telford to take on top of the league Tigers in what promises to be an entertaining night of hockey.
Man Of The Match:
Swindon Wildcats - Mark Smith
Hull Pirates - Marcus Maynard