It took a goal 14 seconds from time for Sutton Sting to snatch a 4-3 win over struggling Telford Titans and move back up to third with two games in hand on the teams above and below in the National Ice Hockey league One Moralee Conference.
Still without a league point, Telford had been struggling to ice a full squad, but had just added a few rookie EPL players, and Tom Murdy in the net, and had almost taken points off Blackburn Hawks the night before.
So Sting knew this one would be far from the previous 17-1 walkover during the Christmas break.
Ahead of the game, again in front of an excellent home crowd, the Sting were dealt a blow as blue-liner Richie Oliver’s skate blade was broken during warm-up, leaving him out of the game as a repair wasn’t possible.
With just 0.40 on the clock, Sting’s James Spurr was called for hooking and at 1.25 Telford import Karol Jets hit the go-ahead goal on the power play, assisted by Paul Davies and Simon Harrison. A little under four minutes later, it was Jets again who neatly slotted home past netminder Bagshaw to make it 2-0.
Sutton were shocked, but it was all action at both ends, and the Sting went close, twice hitting the post, before a Chris Sykes goal was waved off by referee David Goodwin, confirming there was a player in the crease.
As we approached the first period break and, after some excellent line play, it was Matt Jeffcock who placed a beautiful wrist shot into the top corner to make it 2-1 at 16.16, with assists from Simon Offord and Shaun Ashton.
However, 32 seconds later, Jo Ashton increased the Titans’ lead to make it 3-1 going into the first interval.
Shots on goal for the first period were 10 on Murdy and 11 on Bagshaw.
On the restart, the home team stepped up the pace and Murdy continued to make save after save. Telford also had the post and crossbar to thank as time and time again the Sting looked like they were certain to pull themselves back in to the game, but were constantly denied.
Telford were well and truly camped in their own defensive zone, but the commitment and determination they showed was paying off until Canadian import Thomas Stuart-Dant received a sublime pass from Chris Colegate and shot home from close range.
Telford only managed three shots in the second period which Bagshaw dealt with superbly, but Murdy at the other end just kept blocking everything that was thrown at him. At the end of the second period, it was 3-2 to Telford, with 30 shots on Murdy and only three on Bagshaw.
With the home crowd well and truly behind their team, the Sting train kept on rolling in the third period, but credit to Telford, they were still looking for an opening to extend their lead, and Bagshaw needed to be at his best to keep them out.
At the other end, it was James Spurr’s turn to have a goal scratched off as he hit a bullet into the back of the net, only for it to rebound out off the back bar.
Matt Jeffcock then stepped up for his second goal of the afternoon, another superb wrist shot, high and tight into the corner, Murdy missing the glove save at 53.06.
Telford’s coach called a time out in an attempt to unsettle the home team, who had maintained the pressure for the last 20 minutes or so of the game, and were now well and truly back in contention.
As the game entered the final minute it was Sting’s turn for a little fortune as Cameron Blakemore received a two minute penalty for tripping at 59.39.
Sting head coach Ian Johnson called a time out, and James Spur was instructed to take the face off.
He won that, the puck fell back to Simon Butterworth, who then passed to Chris Sykes, who then found James Spurr at the back post where he netted the softest back hand goal ever with 14 seconds to play to win it.
Last period shots on goal were 11 on Bagshaw and 17 on Murdy and home man of the match went to Jeffcock.