Swindon Jaguars are crowned national champions

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Swindon Jaguars have been crowned National Junior Champions after a sensational performance in Sheffield.

As South West Champions, Swindon Wildcats Ice Hockey Academy’s Under 11 side entered the competition in confident mood ahead of taking on the champions and runners-up in the Northern, Midland, South East and South West Leagues.

All the teams were split into two pools with the winners of each group facing off in the Gold Medal game.

In their opening game Swindon took on Peterborough in what proved to be a physical encounter and it didn’t start well as they fell behind after just 20 seconds.

Jaguars rallied though with Alexander Blakeman (17.18) and Joseph Hillier (24.14) both scoring to give them victory.

Game two saw Swindon take on Nottingham, a fast-paced skating team, and once again they fell behind early on, conceding after 2.50.

Once again though Jaguars showed their character to fight back and grab another 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Josh Burnett (23.01) and Oskar Sagan (36.02).

Next Swindon took on undefeated Northern League Champions Manchester – the pre-tournament favourites, who had already run up some big scores in the group stages.

The result of this match would decide who went through to the Gold Medal Game and Jaguars got off to a fantastic start with Luca Kirk-Browne scoring after just 20 seconds.

Manchester hit back at 2.21 as they scored an unstoppable equaliser but instead of momentum shifting towards the Northern League Champions, Swindon hit back to score the winner at 46.11 with eitherby Ethan Taylor or Jan Kostal getting the final touch.

In the final Jaguars faced host club and perennial winners Sheffield Thunder and the opening two periods were tense and remained goalless.

Swindon netminder Ben Clarke-Leach never looked like conceding and his efforts were rewarded in the third period when Luca Kirk-Browne fired home a screamer of a shot into the top corner of the Sheffield net to clinch victory.

Jaguars head coach Ken Forshee hailed his side, saying: “I am so proud of the team – at such a young age to totally buy in to the team first philosophy and work as hard as they did it inspiring.

“It is an endorsement of our core values and that as an academy and a team we are on the right path.”

Swindon Wildcats Ice Hockey Academy general manager Lee Mason added: “SWIHA would like to thank head coach Ken Forshee, assistant coach Dan Burnett, manager Verity Liddamore and team rep Simon Godfrey for preparing and looking after the team so well.

“We would also like to thank the players for representing us with such pride and determination – and the Red Army of parents what made sure the players were supported throughout.

“As general manager of the academy I could not have asked for a better end to the season, not only did the Jaguars win they won playing and behaving the right way and I look forward to seeing this group of players and all of the other players in the academy develop over the next few years.”

Swindon Wildcats Ice Hockey Academy now has now had five teams in the national finals across the under 15, under 13 and under 11 age groups over the last three years, winning three bronze, one silver and one gold medal.