Bradford Bulldogs still in the hunt for Laidler play-off spot

INSURANCE MARKER: Tomas Mitrik scored late in the third period to help Bradford Bulldogs secure a much-needed win over Sheffield Titans. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

BRADFORD BULLDOGS remain in the hunt for the NIHL North Two (Laidler) play-offs – but need help elsewhere in order to stand a chance of making the Final Four Weekend in Widnes next month.

The Bulldogs did what they needed to do when beating Sheffield Titans 5-3 at home on Saturday, but a 5-2 win for Sutton Sting over Coventry Blaze the following day leaves Andy Brown’s team’s play-off hopes hanging by a thread.

Fourth-placed Sutton – two points ahead of the Bulldogs in fifth – head to confirmed runners-up Hull Jets this Saturday knowing a point will be enough to guarantee them the fourth and final play-off spot and a place in Widnes on the weekend April 16-17.

Should Sutton fail to take anything from their trip to the East Riding, then Bradford know a regulation win against their Nottinghamshire rivals at home on April 2 could see them heading for the season finale instead.

“We did what we had to do against Sheffield an we got what we deserved,” said Brown. “It wasn’t the result we wanted the following day in terms of Sutton, but there’s nothing we can do about that.

“Hopefully, Hull can do us a favour this weekend and then it will be everything to play for when Suttong come to ours on April 2.

FINGERS CROSSED: Head coach Andy Brown, with assistant coach Hannah Gibson. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

“We played really well against the Titans overall. Matty Barlow was obviously great for us and posted a brilliant hat-trick, but there were a number of other strong, individual performances too.

“We’ve given ourselves a chance with some big wins, winning four out of our last five games. Hopefully, we can still be talking about being in with a chance of making the play-offs this time next week.”

Despite dominating the game in terms of possession and chances, Titans’ goalie Alex Oldale stood on his head throughout, the Bulldogs only going in at the first intermission 1-0 ahead when Josh Richardson broke the deadlock with just 13 seconds remaining.

Matty Barlow then took over for the Bulldogs when stretching the lead to 3-0 with strikes at 22.27 – on the power play – and 25.18.

But the Titans – themselves already guaranteed a place in Widnes – were back to within one goal within eight minutes when 17-year-old Michael Danecko, who has made a number of appearances for Sheffield Steeldogs in NIHL National, twice found a way past Phil Pearson.

Barlow struck what proved to be the game-winning strike just 18 seconds into the third period to give the Bulldogs some welcome breathing space, Tomas Mitrik making it 5-3 at 54.13.

The impressive Danecko completed his hat-trick 56.54 – his second power play effort of the night – but that was as close as the Titans got, Oldale eventually turning away 78 of the 83 shots that rained down on his net.

Under-12s move into top two with double over Billingham

BRADFORD BULLDOGS Under-12s moved into second spot in North One after twice getting the better of rivals Billingham Stars in their double-header weekend.

The victories leave the Bulldogs two points off leaders Leeds Junior Knights with the two local rivals still yet to play each other twice.

Saturday saw the Under-12s take the road trip to Teesside, with captain Will Durgan leading the way with a 4+1 performance.

DOUBLE DELIGHT: Action from Bulldogs’ Under-12s 8-0 win at Billingham Stars on Saturday. Picture courtesy of John Stoves/Billingham Stars.

Durgan plundered a hat-trick inside the first period, with Layden Fletcher-Robb also getting on the board in the 10th minute for a 4-0 lead at the break.

After Durgan had grabbed his fourth goal early in the second, Kieran Smith got in on the act when making it 6-0 at 17.03 before Kyle Bower’s double rounded off the scoring before the mercy rule kicked in.

Back in Bradford the following day, it was a similar story, the Bulldogs going 3-0 inside 10 minutes thanks to Durgan (2) and Eleanor Simpson.

Fletcher-Robb struck at 13.48 with William Simpson and Charlie Barker joining him on the scoresheet to make it 6-0 by the end of the first. Smith got his second of the weekend at 20.11, before Bower made it three goals in two appearances to round off the scoring at 22.00.

Elsewhere, our Under-10s enjoyed another afternoon of cross-ice, this time making the trip to Altrincham to take on Manchester Storm, Telford and Widnes.

It was another entertaining couple of hours of hockey, with Harley Lucas picking up the Spirit of the Game Award.

Bulldogs Under-14s back up to third after Whitley road trip

The Under-14s returned to third in the North One table, keeping their outside hopes of making the end-of-season Nationals alive with an 18-7 win at Whitley Bay. 

Captain Daragh Spawforth enjoyed a memorable day by plundering eight goals and bagging four assists, while there were also significant contributions from Danny Harrison (5+5) and Frank O’Sullivan (3+3).

DARAGH’S DOZEN: Captain Daragh Spawforth led the way for the Under-14s in their 18-7 win at Whitley Bay with eight goals and four assists. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

Will Durgan got on the board with two goals, while there were also assists for Daniel Johns (2) and Harrison Booth.

Bulldogs established a 5-1 lead by the end of the first through Spawforth (2), Harrison (2) and Durgan, with Jack Williams replying for the hosts.

In the second, the visitors enhanced their lead with seven more strikes, Harrison (3), Spawforth (2) and O’Sullivan (2) finding a way past Orson Groot, while Ethan Dunn, Williams and Max Torre were on target for Whitley.

O’Sullivan completed his hat-trick early in the third, before Spawforth produced his most prolific period with four more goal, Durgan scoring his second in-between while, at the other end, Ladislav Raiminius impressed with a hat-trick.