Slough Jets lined up against the Guildford Flames in a second back to back home and away weekend series, these two games being the final two meetings scheduled for the regular season between the teams.
Slough once again were without Ryan Watt on the ice as he continues to recover from injury for the game. With players also playing through injury it was a near full strength line-up for the Jets battling the current league leaders.
The Flames were missing Kvetan and Huppe but it’s hard to feel sympathy for a team missing two imports when they have another two to slot in to the line-up. Any other team missing two imports through injury would have iced with just two imports. Given one of the “spare” imports is Jozef Kohut, who seems to be in the form of his life and surprising many (certainly me) with his point production this season my sympathy for injury crisis has somewhat ended.
Dave Cloutman took charge of the game which was a pleasing allocation. Clouts is a very experienced official, he’s old school and his game management is second to none. Technically you could argue that he does let possible penalties go unpenalised but why would you want to argue that. He is fair to both sides in every game and what you get with a Dave Cloutman game is a free flowing and sensibly officiated game.
With more enforced changing of the Jets lines to accommodate Ryan’s absence Slough set off determined to get a good start in the game. In the interview I’d done with Doug for Jets TV earlier in that week, and in our conversation after, he was adamant that his team could beat any team in the league on their day and that we needed to get a good start and play to our potential.
170 seconds into the game Shep stepped up to be counted with the opening goal, scored on a powerplay with 10 seconds left in Kohut’s penalty. Sheppard won the draw to Joe Greener, back to Zach Sullivan who passed back to Greener by the hash marks who passed to Sheppard who one timed the puck past Mark Lee for the opening goal.
The sizeable travelling Flames supporters looked shocked by the opening goal but just 19 seconds later it was 2-0 thanks to Dan Davies. It was great team work from the assistants in Calder and Pliskauskas to unsettle Lee leaving Davies to finish off. Pliskauskas got in close before passing to Calder on the other side of the net and Lee slid across to cover but Calder fed Davies the puck and he slid it precisely into the gap Lee had left him for 2-0 at 3.09
Slough’s Terry Miles sat out a trip to the sin bin for a hooking minor penalty and Joe Greener scored a shorthanded goal to make it 3-0. After some powerplay pressure a turn over by David Savage, playing on the blue-line allowed Joe Greener a break away and he waited for the perfect moment drawing Lee into saving position but beating him with a classy backhanded goal.
Three nil on the scoreboard and Paul Dixon calls his teams shut-out. A far different start to the game than certainly Dixon would have been anticipating and probably a lot of people would have anticipated but a fair reflection of the game so far. The Flames played better after the time-out but the Jets lead the game 3-0 at the 20 minute point.
The second period saw a big rally back from the Flames with goals from Chambers and Towe. A 3 on 2 for the Flames came about after a turn-over in their defensive zone and with Joe Greener chasing back Melicherik passed to Kohut who slid the puck all the way across the ice to Chambers moving into position to shoot for 3-1. 3-2 came when Towe finished after Longstaff fed the puck behind the net to Rempel and he managed to hold of Adam Greener’s defensive pressure long enough to feed Towe in front to beat Rockman and at 28.08 it was 3-2. Shep had called the Jets time-out after the first goal so the second goal following less than a minute later would have been a surprise to the home team. The second goal did perk up the Jets and a high shooting period ended 0-2 in favour of the Flames setting up the third period for a close matched period.
The third period, and ultimately the game would be won by the team that brought their ‘A’ game to the ice for the third period. The Flames have proved by being number 1 in the league that they have an excellent a game but the Jets have proved twice against the Flames and against the other teams in the league that they also have an excellent a game too. Missing Ryan Watt meant enforced line changes for a third successive weekend but that didn’t stop the Jets from playing their second dominant period of the game.
While the Flames had enjoyed the better of the middle period the Jets made no bones about their desire to hold their lead, extend their lead and claim the two points. Every player from Rocky forward played an important part in the final 20 minutes of the game and at 48.46 Sheppard added a safety margin with his second of the night making it 4-2. Mark Lee made a stick save on a speculative shot from Aaron Connolly and Shep moved into place to pass Lee on the stick side making the narrow angle into the goal.
With both teams having already used their time-outs neither had one left to take, it’s unmistakable who’d have wanted on most at that time. For Shep an available timeout would have probably gone along the lines of the game is ours to win now so don’t do anything silly whereas for the Flames the time-out would have been a lot less calm, needing two goals to take a point and force the game to OT.
Some good offensive threats from the Flames were met by equally impressive netminding leaving it a 4-2 and at 58.37 Lee was replaced by the extra skater leaving the net empty. The Flames managed to escape a couple of chances from the Jets but at 59.55 the final goal of the night went into their empty net making it 5-2. Sheppard battled against the Flames in his own defensive zone before laying off an outlet pass off the boards to Joe Greener who carried the puck down the ice. Aaron Connolly joined him for a 2 on 1 chance with Lundin the only Flames player between the puck and the back of the net. Greener passed to Connolly and Lundin bravely attempted a netminder’s job but Connolly’s shot was too good for him, hitting the top back of the net and the Jets claimed a comfortable win.
In summary the Jets deserved their win. For the opening 20 minutes they dominated the game entirely, for the middle 20 minutes they withstood the Flames only decent period of the game and for the final 20 minutes the Jets wanted it more and played like they did.
It’s impressive to beat the league leading team under any circumstances but to do it with a player like Ryan Watt missing from the line-up it’s even more impressive. It shows what the Jets can do and sends a clear message following the 4 point weekend against Basingstoke that the Jets, even shorthanded, mean business for the rest of the season.