BRADFORD BULLDOGS came close to moving up in the world but were to be denied by the narrowest of margins when they lost 8-7 at NIHL North Two rivals Altrincham Aces.

A win for the visitors would have lifted them above their hosts in the regular season standings and into sixth spot.

But they were forced to settle for just the one point and have just seven regular season games remaining in which to improve their final placing and - potentially - improve their play-off chances.

They get two opportunities to do that this weekend, first travelling to Billingham Buccaneers on Saturday before returning home to host Kingston Sharks at Bradford Ice Arena on Sunday (face-off 5.45pm).

In Altrincham, head coach Andy Brown’s team found themselves trailing with just 46 seconds on the clock, Jack Murray driving down the right wing before cutting in and beating Jake Lowndes.

It wasn’t long before parity was restored though, Josh Stockton jamming home a rebound from close range, the league’s leading points scorer doubling his tally in the 14th minute when he made the most of a neat pass from Declan Kime off the right boards to fire home from close in.

The second period was only 45 seconds in when the Bulldogs’ doubled their lead when Dean Boothroyd fired home through traffic.

But, just after the halfway point, the Bulldogs found themselves trailing by a goal after Dylan Harcourt, Thomas Revesz and Callum Smith all got on the scoresheet for the Aces.

Then it was the Bulldogs’ turn to show some resilience, Stockton completing his hat-trick at 34.33 when cutting in from the left before rifling his shot into Mike Rogers’ top left-hand corner.

In a frenetic end to the period, the Aces got themselves ahead once again, this time through a power play strike from Corey Lee at 37.41, only for the visitors to pull themselves level for the second time just six seconds later through when Michael Speare’s face-off win at centre ice allowed Lucas VInce to drive forward and beat Rogers with a fierce shot from just above the left hash marks.

The Aces went in ahead, though, when Harcourt was the quickest to react to his blocked shot to make it 6-5 with just 45 seconds of the period remaining.

But the Bulldogs wiped that lead out early in the third when Stockton won the puck on the boards before switching it across the front of goal and finding Dave Williams who slotted it home at the first time of asking.

There was still time for more drama though, Altrincham forging ahead again through Bradley Chapman just three minutes later, the Bulldogs believing they had levelled again only for the officials to judge otherwise before the game went into the last two minutes with one goal still separating the two teams.

It looked like that is how it would all end until Stockton won the puck behind the net and fed Kime in front from where he slotted home to make it 7-7 with just 74 seconds remaining.

Boothroyd, Speare and Stockton all came close to winning it in overtime for the Bulldogs but a shootout was ultimately required and it was the Aces who prevailed, Ben Fox the only Bradford player to find the net with Lowndes being beaten twice at the other end.

Face-off for this Sunday’s NIHL North Two clash at home to Kingston Sharks is at 5.30pm, doors open at 4.45pm.