BRADFORD BULLDOGS’ Under-18s moved top of Division One North thanks to a remarkable six-goal display from captain Damarni James which led the team to a 7-4 win at home to Nottingham.
The East Midlanders would have arrived at Little Horton Lane in confident mood given their unbeaten start to the season which had brought comfortable wins over both Whitley Bay and Manchester Storm.
But a three-goal blitz inside the first 15 minutes left the visitors on the backfoot, James launching the start of a memorable night when he opened his account with 7.51 on the clock.
Before too long, he had recorded his first hat-trick of the evening, firing past Matt Bloor twice more at 11.11 and 12.53, the latter strike coming while the Bulldogs were short-handed.
Nottingham gave themselves what they hoped was a lifeline when Joshua Kelly responded at 19.05 but two more shorthanded efforts from a rampant James inside the first five minutes of the second period seemed to put the game beyond doubt.
The visitors steadied themselves and cut the deficit to two through second period strikes from Billy Crofts and Joel Hopcroft, meaning there was still all to play for going into the third.
But that man James struck again with his sixth of the game – this time a penalty shot – to make it 6-3 at 51.38, Kelly’s second soon after making sure the Bulldogs couldn’t switch off inside the last 10 minutes before Tom Mardell popped up with an insurance marker with 30 seconds remaining, adding to his assist on James’s opener.
Other assists went to Matthew Cross, Logan Jean-Jacques and Mackenzie Barker.
Bulldogs’ Seniors mauled by Tigers
Bulldogs’ seniors couldn’t extend their winning start to the season to three games after coming undone 5-1 at home to Telford Tigers 2 in NIHL North Two.
The visitors dominated from start to finish and were 3-0 ahead inside 10 minutes, Phil Pearson beaten for the first time with less than two minutes gone by Oliver Hunt before two goals in 88 seconds floored the hosts. Charlie Spridgeon doubled the lead at 8.22 before a power play strike followed from Karol Jets with Ben Derbyshire in the box on a hooking call.
That was how it stayed until 22.25 when Filip Supa made it 4-0, the misery for the home team increased by the same player when he struck again just over four minutes later.
Coach Andy Brown was at least given something to smile about when his team got on the board through skipper Dean Boothroyd, but that was the only highlight for the home team.
There was to be no further scoring, with the third being more notable for penalties incurred by Bulldogs’ Mark Higson and Telford’s Rhys Howell’s, both receiving game misconducts.
Afterwards, a frustrated Brown said: “We never got going, but credit to Telford they closed us down well and their forecheck made it difficult to successfully exit the defensive zone.
“Up front we need to create far more scoring opportunities and be more clinical in front of goal. “We’ll get back to work this week on training to make sure we make the necessary improvements.”
Short on numbers but big on heart
Six of the victorious Under-18s line-up were in Shropshire the day before as part of the Bulldogs’ Under-16s team which took on Telford.
A number of late withdrawals on the morning of the game meant the youngsters eventually took to the ice with just nine skaters in front of netminder Callum Preston, facing off against a full-strength Tigers.
After Taylor Stanton opened the home team’s account inside three minutes, the writing looked to be on the wall for a long afternoon for the visitors, but the next goal came at the other end, Mackenzie Barker getting on the end of a feed from Danny Harrison to level at 7.56.
Just as it looked like the teams would go in level at the first break, Telford won a face-off in the Bulldogs zone, with the puck falling to Stanton who fired past Preston at 14.59.
A power play marker gave Stanton his hat-trick just 94 seconds into the second period but Barker doubled his tally following good work by Harrison and Mardell to make it a one-goal game again at 17.49.
Two goals in as many minutes, the first from Kyle Watts at 21.04 and a strike from captain Ryan Leese, saw Telford establish a 5-2 lead just after the halfway mark and the result seemed a foregone conclusion.
But, encouraged by coach Kirsten Deighton, back came the Bulldogs, Harrison getting on the board after breaking clear down the left and firing past Hal Griffiths to make it 5-3 at 35.58.
Just 28 seconds later, it was a one-goal game again when Barker pounced for his hat-trick strike, prompting nerves on the home bench.
Those nerves became even more frayed when Barker forced the puck home to level the scores at 42.01, ensuring the already-vocal away support went wild.
But, just as it looked like the Bulldogs would emerge with a deserved point, Leese pounced to fire past Preston at 43.09 to leave the Bulldogs crushed, D-man Sam Cadman getting the nod for the Spirit of the Game award.
Coming up this weekend …
This weekend sees a hectic couple of days for our junior sides, Saturday seeing our Under-12s getting their season underway when they host Whitley Bay at 4pm, the Under-16s following them on to the ice at around 5.45pm when they take on Nottingham.
On Sunday, our Under-14s head to Nottingham for a 5pm face-off while the Under-18s will take on Telford in Bradford with that game set to start around 5.10pm.