It’s amazing what a more than a little bit of money can do. For years Telford Tigers were the whipping boys of the English Premier League – indeed they withdrew from the competition for a season because of cash problems.
Now they appear to be on the verge of the biggest turn around in the league’s history.
Just over three months ago Lightning defeated the Shropshire side 6-2 when Tigers were rock bottom in the table with little hope of qualifying for the play-offs.
Since then former Tigers stick boy now successful businessman, Wayne Scholes, has poured money in to the club – bringing in top line players – and now few would bet against them lifting the EPL play-off title in April.
Three wins from their first 13 games have been transformed to 19 victories in 42 matches to go fifth in the table.
In recent weeks Tigers have beaten all top three teams in the league and at the weekend Lightning fell to their sword in 6-2 and 5-4 wins for the revitalised organisation.
Unfortunately Lightning could not have met them at such a bad time with an injury crisis hitting the city club.
Import Stan Lascek was again forced to sit out the game, while key defenceman Michael Farn was also injured, together with Ben Russell and the long term absentee, Connor Goode. Paul Gore dressed but was not fit enough to play.
Nick Poole replaced Lascek and captain Adam Carr played in defence as Lightning had only three fit defencemen
They faced a full strength Tigers line up of 21 players so it was no surprise that Lightning struggled as the game went
Despite that Lightning refused to cave in on Saturday – at least for two periods - and held a 2-1 lead at the second break at Coventry Skydome – only see Tigers take hit them with a five goal unanswered spell in the third session for a 6-2 win.
The two outfits met again at Telford less than 24 hours later and, for the home team at least, all seemed to be going according to plan when they established a 4-2 lead by the second break.
But they had not reckoned without a resilient Lightning who fought back in the third to tie the game at 4-4 and force overtime which failed to produce a winner. In the end Tigers snatched a 5-4 victory in a penalty shoot out.
On Saturday Ross Bowers got Lightning off to a scoring start with a Ross Green assisted goal after 7mins 20secs. A superb Janne Jokila strike from distance made it 2-0 after 15mins 8secs.
As the second session went on Tigers piled on the pressure but despite penalties on Leigh Jamieson (twice) and Carr they could not break through. It was not until Michal Pavlu scrambled home from close range that goalie Stephen Wall’s resistance was finally broken after 37mins 5secs.
Just 3mins 32secs into the third period Dan Scott levelled things up and little over two minutes later at 45mins 39secs Nathan Salem got the first of his two goal from Callum Bowley’s set up.
After Miika Kiviranta made it 4-2 on 46mins 34secs Lightning called a time out – to little effect as the lead was stretched to three at 47mins 53secs by Salem.
Scott McKenzie and Poole clashed with just over two minutes to goal – the Lightning coach uncharacteristically choosing to drop his gloves to fight, picking up four minutes for roughing and 10 minutes for misconduct.
Few fans hoped for a good result when Lightning went to Tigers the next day. And although Bowers again opened the scoring after 2mins 25secs it was Telford who led at the first break.
Pavlu got them level on the powerplay after 4mins 39secs before former MK man, James Pease, put them in front after 9mins 55secs – another ex-MK man, Rick Plant, also having a hand in the goal.
Jordan Cownie struck for the visitors to tie the game at 27mins 11secs but Tigers hit back quickly with Joe Miller on target 40secs afterwards.
Timo Kuuluvainen increased Telford’s goal tally on 29mins 11secs.
Bowers bagged his second of the game 2mins 36secs into the third period – Poole and Blaz Emersic getting the assists before Carr banged in the equaliser with 4mins 57secs of regulation time remaining.
Overtime came and went with no further score so it was down to penalties with Dan Davies and McKenzie registering for Tigers while Emersic converted the only successful shot for the visitors, giving the hosts the two points and Lightning collecting one.