DEESIDE DRAGONS suffered a huge blow to their play-off hopes as they were narrowly beaten by the Bradford Bulldogs for the third time this season.

Following 3-2 and 2-1 successes against the Dragons at the Den earlier in the season, the Bulldogs did it again in front of their own fans as they came from behind to steal a 6-5 win.

A fifth defeat in a row for the Flintshire club means that they slip down to sixth in the NIHL Laidler Conference, two points off Sheffield in fourth having played three games more.

Speaking about the game, Dragons player-coach Marc Lovell said: “I’m disappointed we didn’t get the points, but I’m not disappointed in the performance we put in.

“We had the better of the first period and went 2-0 up in the second before we made a couple of mistakes to let them back into the game. But we showed good character to keep ourselves in the game, when we could have quite easily collapsed.

“Every game we have left is crucial now because we’re coming up against teams who are all fighting for pretty much the last two play-off places after Hull and Bradford who should be the top two.

“We have a week off now to prepare for a big game against Telford who are not playing as well as they were earlier in the season.”

Both netminders played a starring role at the start of the game, ensuring the two sides ended the first period goalless after a tight opening 20 minutes.

Bradford’s Ian Thirkettle made 18 saves to keep the Dragons out, while Samantha Bolwell kept the Bulldogs at bay at the other end with 13 stops of her own.

Her saves proved to be important ones too, as it was Deeside who drew first blood less than a minute into the second period.

Club captain, James Parsons, recorded his 15th assist of the season when he worked the puck on to Chris Keating who made no mistake in breaking the deadlock.

Keating then had a role in doubling Deeside’s lead a few minutes later when he played in Simon Furnival to put the visitors 2-0 up.

But despite being shorthanded, Bradford pulled themselves level with a quickfire double at the halfway point in the game when Adam Reynolds set up Tomas Mitrik twice in the space of seven seconds to make it 2-2.

Reynolds then got himself another assist two minutes later when Joshua Purvis fired the hosts ahead for the first time in the game, giving them a lead that they wouldn’t give up.

With Bradford 3-2 up going into the final period, Reynolds got himself a fourth assist to double his side’s advantage as he helped Matthew Viney to get himself onto the scoresheet.

The Dragons pulled one back in the 46th minute when the young James Shaw and experienced Marc Lovell combined to set up Charlie Spridgeon for his seventh goal of the season.

But Bradford regained their two-goal advantage with ten minutes to go when Mitrik returned the favour for Reynolds to make it 5-3.

Once again, the Dragons got themselves within touching distance of the Bulldogs when James Parsons set up Chris Keating to score his second of the game with three minutes to go.

Just 30 seconds later, though, Jack Davies scored a sixth for the home side, and although Keating turned provider for Parsons to make it 6-5 with 11 seconds left, it was too little too late as Bradford held out for the victory.

Elsewhere in the Laidler Conference, Hull Jets demolished Blackburn Hawks Reserves 16-1 to keep themselves a point ahead of Bradford at the top of the league, with a game in hand. A rampant Widnes Wild, meanwhile, leapfrogged the Dragons into fifth place as the defending champions beat the Sheffield Senators 9-1.