HEAD coach Andy Brown said Bradford Bulldogs Under-12s did themselves proud at the EIHA Nationals at Ice Sheffield.
Already North champions, the Under-12s headed to Ice Sheffield for the English Ice Hockey Association’s Nationals tournament, bringing together the best eight teams from across the country.
Drawn in Group Two, the Under-12s found themselves up against Midlands runners-up Sheffield as well as South-East runners-up Chelmsford and South West division champions Swindon.
First up were Sheffield, who had only finished runners-up on goal difference after finishing level on points with champions Nottingham.
Will Durgan broke the deadlock to put the Bulldogs at 5.16, with Sheffield eventually drawing level late in the second period through Rory Hill.
Travis Brammah and a second from Hill put Sheffield in control early in the third and although a second came from Durgan within a minute at 36.26, they couldn’t find the equaliser, Sheffield making sure of the win with late strikes from Riley-Drew Douglas and Teddy Hancock.
The second game of the day produced a better outcome when a goal from Thomas Taylor at 26.27 looked like it would be enough to get the better of Chelmsford.
With just under five minutes remaining, Dylan Smith equalised but there was to be one final twist when, with 50 reconds left on the clock, Kyle Bower pounced to give the Bulldogs a thrilling victory.
The Bulldogs returned on Sunday morning knowing a win against Swindon – beaten by both Sheffield an Chelmsford the day before – could be enough to see them through to the semi-finals.
The Wiltshire team looked like heading into the third period with a 2-0 lead after, but Bower threw life into the Bulldogs’ cause by halving the deficit with his second of the tournament at 30.37.
But there was to be no second win for the Bulldogs, two goals from Seth Collins putting Swindon firmly in control, with further strikes from Oliver Hine and Charlie Williams sealing a 6-1 victory.
Head coach Andy Brown said while there were a few tears and some disappointed youngsters, his players could be proud of their efforts after a hugely successful 2021-22 campaign. The team were presented with their trophy for winning the North Division title during the tournament.
“We always knew it would be tough at the Nationals, after all it brings together the best teams and with it the best Under-12 players in the country,” said Brown.
“But, as they have all season, our youngsters more than held their own against three very strong teams.
“There have been some very special moments this for our players this season, they have all shown significant improvement from where they started in September.
“And while it didn’t go the way we wanted to at Ice Sheffield, they did themselves proud, showing the rest of the country that there is a lot of talent coming through at our club.”
Sheffield ultimately went on to win the Nationals, beating Nottingham 6-3 in the semi-finals before overcoming Basingstoke 2-0 in the final.