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Game Report: Sheffield Steeldogs 4 Swindon Wildcats 3 - 17/01/16

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Swindon Wildcats logo Swindon Wildcats were unable to secure a four point weekend on Sunday evening, as they fell in a close fought encounter to Sheffield Steeldogs, reports Total Swindon's Danny Gallagher.

With Saturday's revenge mission over Manchester Phoenix complete, Swindon Wildcats travelled to Sheffield with the aim of getting back to winning ways and scooping a confidence boosting four point weekend.

The game began brightly, with both sides chomping at the bit. No sooner had the first puck dropped Steeldogs' Andrew Hirst was testing Stevie Lyle from the blue line, looking to build early pressure.

Wildcats reacted professionally, breaking down their opponents and driving into their half of the ice with composed, attacking hockey.

Tomazs Malasinski would soon test Dalibor Sedlar between the Sheffield pipes, before Stevie Whitfield followed up his effort from close range. As Whitfield's effort ricocheted behind, a collision of bodies caused a few spicy exchanges to bounce back and forth between the opposing players, with the tie soon finding a heated edge.

The first stand-out passage of play in the tie came from the creative brain of Swindon Wildcats. Exquisite link up between head coach Aaron Nell and Malasinski rendered the Steeldogs d-line redundant. The pair slotted in Jonas Hoog but the Swede could not find the all-important finish.

Wildcats kept up the pressure, knocking at the Sheffield door and reminding their opponents of their bold intent.

The hosts would soon respond, striking a quick counter via the marauding Ashley Calvert. Outnumbered at the back, Wildcats required D-man Neil Liddiard to hurl himself across the ice valiantly in front of Lyle, breaking down the play and allowing his Swindon compatriots to recover.

Both sides exchanged further digs as the period petered out, Toms Rutkis with the best of the chances after dancing past two Steeldogs personnel as though they were not even there, only to be denied by Sedlar.

As the buzzer sounded, both sides departed the ice, knowing the tie could comfortably fall either way after the first 20 minutes.

The second period began with Liddiard again acquainting himself with the ice, diving at the skates of Arnoldas Bosas to prevent an early Steeldogs goal.

Sheffield would advance once more, working the puck from out wide right into the danger area. Thankfully for Cats the decision making of their opponents was not on par with their creativity, as Hirst and Lascek got in each others' way, with neither able to pull the trigger.

Capitalising, Wildcats would soon make their move on the counter-attack. Strong defensive play enabled Hoog and Malasinski to break up ice with pace, putting their opponents on the back foot before sliding in Aaron Nell.

The angle against him, Nell managed to keep his effort hard and low, losing momentum in the process but beating Sedlar to make it 1-0.

The hosts would soon reply, holding possession high up the ice behind Lyle's pipes, before creating space for Tom Squires to finish, Bosas credited with the assist.

Keen to quickly make amends, Wildcats bounded back up to the opposition danger zone; a move which would soon prove fatal.

Advancing too quickly, Carlo Finucci squared the puck back in hoping of finding a team mate joining the assault. With Swindon pressing haphazardly, the wayward puck drifted into open ice and was soon picked up by the opposition.

Within seconds, Bosas had been threaded in and bore down upon Lyle. Some nimble stick work and the Cats' netminder was rooted to the spot, with Bosas cooly flicking the puck into the roof of the goal. Seconds later the buzzer sounded - the dictionary definition of a sucker punch.

Emerging for the third period, Nell's side knew all was still to play for.

In keeping with the previous 40 minutes, the third brought another passage of end-to-end play, with both sides searching for an opening.

Bosas could have notched his second of the evening, after being expertly picked out in a patch of clear ice left of the Wildcats' pipes, but the forward couldn't make clean contact and saw his effort drift behind.

With ten minutes left on the clock Swindon inflicted a killer blow. Neat play from Sam Bullasbehind the goal line saw the Steeldogs at sixes and sevens, before the decisive pass found Finucci who finished with aplomb.

In a frenzied finish, the home side were determined to have the last laugh, throwing all their resources forward with much success.

Cole Shudra added Sheffield's third before a cruel passage of play saw Squires notch a fourth, taking the assisted effort after Matt Selby's final touch on the puck saw it flick past a stranded Lyle.

Entering the dying moments, Wildcats blazed forward, hardly pausing for breath before Hoog unleashed an unstoppable effort from distance, which nestled neatly in Sedlar's right hand corner of the goal.

Taking a brief time-out Wildcats tried to restore composure to the ranks, but with 30 seconds on the clock, time was bitterly against them.

With Lyle hooked to allow all hands on deck, Wildcats couldn't make the break-through in time. The shrill sound of the final buzzer erupted, close but no cigar for Nell's side in South Yorkshire.

Man of the Match awards

Cole Shudra - Sheffield Steeldogs

Catalent sponsored Harvey Stead - Swindon Wildcats

READ: Player-coach Aaron Nell tells Total Swindon that Cats have had a solid weekend, but mistakes cost them HERE.

Click here for more information and news from the Swindon Wildcats website

Click here to see the latest Swindon Wildcats roster for the 2015/16 season

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