Nottingham made the short drive across to the Energy Centre in Telford today to take on the Wrekin Raiders. These two teams previously met in Nottingham a few short weeks ago, with Nottingham emerging the victors by a score of 5-1.
This fixture saw a much depleted Nottingham side take the ice, with no less than 4 key players unavailable for this game. Telford lined up in similar fashion to their previous encounter. The Raiders came storming out of the blocks, in a theme that would continue for most of the game, forcing early saves from Nottingham netminder Debi Gibson. Vipers Paige Dance was the first player to fall foul of the officials at 3:09 with a 2 minute call for body-checking. More pressure from Telford ensued and Nottingham had to dig deep, as soon as their defensive zone was cleared Telford kept brining it right back in. The pressure proved too much and at 11:39 Telford broke the deadlock with a goal from the face-off circle, finding it’s way through Gibson’s 5 hole. Nottingham could still not find a way to sustain any meaningful pressure on the Telford goal, and only managed their first shot on goal at 14:40. Nottingham’s Lucy Kendall again found herself on the wrong side of the officials with a 2 minute tripping call at 15:59, much to the delight of the Telford bench. However, this finally proved to be the spark Nottingham needed as they upped the forechecking on the penalty kill, with great individual efforts from captain Julia Coughill and Rebecca Cooke managing to test the Telford defense. When Telford finally managed to gain the zone on the powerplay, Nottingham’s number 23 Paige Dance put her head on the line, literally, to break down the attack. Nottingham were rewarded for their concentrated efforts at 18:56, when Coughill managed to beat the Telford netminder to tie the game at 1-1. This seemed to rock Telford, as the final minute was all Nottingham, with Coughill going close again.
Nottingham started the 2nd period as they ended the first, with sustained pressure from all three lines. Laura Smith, Rebecca Cooke, Emma French and Julia Coughill again lead the charge. It was only a matter of time before this pressure paid off, and it was Laura Smith who slid the puck past the Telford netminder at the backdoor after controlling a neat pass from captain Coughill, who forced a turnover on the boards at 6:09 to provide the 2 on 0 chance. Telford refused to give up and really started to bring the game to Nottingham, who themselves refused to be undone and continued to work the Telford goalie. Luck certainly seemed to be with Nottingham, as Telford rang the puck off both the crossbar and the post in quick succession. Telford got the break they deserved in slightly controversial circumstances, as the referee missed a blatant man in the crease call, only for Telford to capitalise for the equaliser when play really should of been whistled down at 14:06. Nottingham piled on the pressure for the final 5 minutes, with Emma French and Laura Smith working well together but unable to find the back of the net.
WIth a tied game heading into the third period, both teams had it all to play for. Nerves seemed to creep in at the start with both teams icing the puck back and forth, giving the officiating team the chance to display their interesting interpretation of the icing rule in women’s ice hockey. Telford broke the deadlock 2 minutes into the third, firing the puck past netminder Gibson. This seemed to spur Telford on, and for the next 5 minutes Debi had to be at her best to keep Nottingham in the game. Nottingham did manage a few individual efforts from Julia Coughill and Paige Dance, but the Telford goalie was in no mood to be beaten, until an opportunistic shot from Paige Dance fell kindly for Laura Smith who roofed it past the sprawled Telford netminder at 8:12. The tentative play continued, until Paige Dance was called on a weak interference call. Whilst Telford failed to capitalise on the powerplay, tired legs and minds were starting to set in for the short benched Nottingham team, who made a mess of the line change at the end of the powerplay allowing Telford to walk into the zone for an easy goal at 10:07. Confidence seemed to be with Telford now, as Nottingham seemed unable to break down Telford’s stifling neutral zone. Frustrations finally took their toll as Lucy Kendall took a body checking penalty that would prove to be the nail in Nottingham’s coffin. After a brief period of Vipers pressure Telford broke into the Nottingham defensive zone, got set up and scored at 17:39 to make the score 5-3. Vipers called a timeout but to no avail as Telford wound the clock down and gleefully collected the two points. Spirit of the game for Nottingham went to Laura Smith for her points production and hard forechecking.