The Bristol Honda Pitbulls started 2022 with a 5-1 home win over the Romford Junior Raiders in front of their first ever full capacity sell out crowd.
Celebrating Pride Night in one-off jerseys that were auctioned after the game, it was the team’s first game since 5th December due to the impact of COVID on the schedule before the Christmas break.
Head Coach, Jamie Elson, was glad to have been able to blow off the cobwebs in front of a large home crowd.
He said: “It was certainly good to get back to games after the extended break and I know all the group were excited to get back out on home ice in front of our fans.
“Once again we were blown away with the support. The fans were great from the moment the team stepped out and we are really starting to create a great atmosphere at game nights in Bristol which is exciting.”
Although Joe Morris opened the scoring inside three minutes thanks to an early powerplay opportunity, Romford put up a far stronger fight through the first period than they had back in October when they played in the Pitbulls opening night game at Planet Ice.
Bristol struggled to get any momentum going and were punished when James Hounsome scored a powerplay goal after thirteen minutes to keep the game tied at the first break.
Elson said: “We came out hard and played a good opening five minutes, I felt, and got ourselves the lead with a great opening powerplay, which was pleasing.
“But once Romford settled they really brought the game to us and made us work for everything in the opening twenty minutes. They had us on the back foot for spells.”
An early second period goal by Mason Lipsey, just 35 seconds after the restart, settled Bristol’s nerves. A further goal three minutes later by Josh Shaw, recently called up to the Great Britain u18 World Championship squad, gave them a safety margin. After surviving a long short-handed spell due to Tamas Elias being ejected on a kneeing penalty, which included over 90 seconds two-men down, captain Loris Taylor added a fourth before the second break.
Bristol became frequent visitors to the penalty bench during the final period, with Bailey Perre thrown out after being involved in his second fight of the night. But, with Man of the Match Tyler Perre showing no signs of rustiness in his first game back in goal after long-term injury and a penalty kill unit on form, Romford struggled to capitalise. A goal by Cain Russell, also called up the British u18 squad this week, with just under two minutes was the only one of the period.
Elson said: “The second period, we came out and just raised our whole tempo and compete level. When we play like that we are really hard to play against and we fully deserved to win that middle period 3-0 and scored some really great goals.
“The final period got a little scrappy with the number of penalties called, but our penalty kill when a man short was excellent once again. We fully deserved the 5-1 score at the end.”
Bristol sit sixth in the league table, although their number of games in hand keep them very much in the group of five teams fighting for second behind runaway leaders, Streatham. With a string of upcoming games against those teams, starting this Sunday with a road trip to fifth place Chelmsford, the team now have a great opportunity to climb further.
Elson said: “Our schedule gets tough now as we have a stretch of games all against the teams just above us in the table who we are chasing. So these next few matches will be really important if we want to start catching up and making a move up the table.”