BRADFORD BULLDOGS came close to inflicting a first defeat of the season on Yorkshire rivals Hull Jets, but ultimately ran out of steam on the east coast as they went down 8-5 in the NIHL North Cup.
Despite preparations being hampered in midweek through illness, head coach Andy Brown was pleased with the efforts of his team at the revamped Hull Ice Arena, coming up against a full-strength Jets.
Josh Stockton and Tomas Mitrik led the scoring with two apiece, while centre Matt Viney weighed in with his first of the season.
The Bulldogs were up against it early on, however, after going 2-0 behind with less than eight minutes on the clock, Kieran Beach and captain Mark Florence giving the hosts the ideal start.
But things were level by the end of the first 20, Slovakian-born Mitrik halving the deficit on the power play at 10.16 before Stockton equalised at 16.01 thanks to a set-up from Josh Reynolds.
Just over two minutes into the second, Mitrik doubled his tally and put the Bulldogs ahead for the first time with Gavin Penn and Connor Medley involved in the build-up, only for the Jets to equalise just under five minutes later through James Maughan.
But the visitors were to go in ahead after 40 after Viney struck his first of the campaign at 34.16 to make it 4-3.
Chris Hogarth dragged the hosts level again at 47.48 before Stockton quickly restored the Bulldogs’ lead just 87 seconds later.
Going into the last 10 minutes, it was looking good for the Bulldogs’ hopes of going top of the group standings. But those hopes were undone when they conceded three goals in as many minutes.
Adam Jasecko struck at 50.03 with Hull’s go-ahead goal coming just 41 seconds later from the stick of Florence.
Jamie Cobley then made it 7-5 at 53.41 before Declan Jones made the points safe inside the last two minutes.
“Preparation for the game was difficult as several players were missing from training due to illness,” said Brown.
“Due to the weather conditions, I was also unsure how many players would even get to Hull but, luckily, only a couple were missing so we still had three lines which was important knowing the depth which Hull have rolling four lines.
“We knew Hull were strong up front but we’d identified several weaknesses in their game and the plan was to exploit these wherever possible.
“I felt we didn’t need to be the better team to win the game, just play smarter, be disciplined, and take our chances when they were there.
“Being up 5-4 with only 10 minutes left to play, it is obviously disappointing to lose 8-5 but I couldn’t have asked for anymore from the boys.
“They stuck to the plan and didn’t take a single penalty all game, we just ran out of legs towards the end.”
Under-18s shut out in Hull … Under-12s share spoils in 12-goal thriller
The previous day, the Bulldogs’ Under-18s also paid a visit to Hull, looking to exact revenge for an 11-4 home defeat at the hands of Kingston Sharks two weeks previously.
At 1-0 down after the first period, the visitors had done well to remain in the game, having been outshot 24-4.
But three goals in five second period minutes proved to be their undoing, Declan Jones (2) and Owen Bruton finding a way past Gabriel Lingard to make it 4-0 after Bruton’s 12th-minute opener.
By the time the final buzzer came around, Hull were 6-0 winners, Bruton completing his hat-trick with Adam Jasecko’s power play marker completing the scoring against a defiant Lingard, who turned away 68 of the 74 shots that rained down on him.
The Bulldogs Under-12s came away from the trip to Altrincham with their unbeaten record intact after sharing the spoils in a 6-6 thriller with Manchester Storm.
It was the visitors who got off to a flier, establishing a 2-0 first period lead through goals from Ellie Simpson at 6.10 and brother William Simpson at 9.17.
Mario Vaksmansky halved the deficit early in the second before Kyle Bower restored the two-goal advantage at 19.23.
Vaksmansky soon struck again but William Durgan ensured the visitors kept their rivals at arm’s length when he fired home at 25.40, the Bulldogs’ 4-2 lead remaining intact after two periods.
But Storm came out flying in the third, Christian Roth getting on the board 30.25 before the prolific Vaksmansky took his personal tally for the game to five to give the hosts a 6-4 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
The visitors rallied, though, William Simpson’s second at 42.02 ensuring plenty of nerves for the home team in the closing moments, with victory being snatched away from them by Durgan’s second of the game a minute later.
It was enough to secure a deserved share of the points in a nail-biting clash, with Bulldogs’ goalie Jacob Mardell getting the Spirit of the Game award after turning away 35 of the 41 shots on his goal.
The only action on home ice over the weekend was for the Bulldog’s Under-10s, who entertained Telford, Manchester and Widnes.
Coach John Foster said each and every Bulldogs’ player played great and were full of enthusiasm, with Thomas Andrews taking home the Spirit of the Game Award.