Wightlink Raiders 1, Chelmsford Chieftains 0
THERE may only have been one goal in this vital match between second and first in the National Ice Hockey League Division 1 South — but it was an absolute classic.
Purist ice hockey fans adore it when a game showcases the very best of the sport — gritty individual battles, passion, great defence and outstanding goaltending — and this game delivered.
From the outset it was clear the two sides were evenly matched, with Raiders enjoying consistent chances and Chelmsford dangerous on the counter.
Sadly for the Essex team, they found themselves facing the inspired Raiders netminder Matt Colclough, who produced the goods and was a worthy man of the match.
It was encouraging to see the Raiders’ third line featuring prominently, with youngster Aidan Doughty looking like he had been part of the set-up for years.
Some of the passing was questionable from the hosts but luckily for the Raiders, Chelmsford made plenty of mistakes of their own. As a result, the opening period was scrappy but Raiders certainly edged it having killed a five-on-three penalty mid way through and having the best of the chances.
Early in the second period, Chelmsford tried to exert their physical prowess but referee Dave Cloutman was cute to their tactics and quickly issued two penalties, which gave Raiders the perfect opportunity. They did not waste it, when Craig Tribe netted from an acute angle at 26.15, after a sustained spell of pressure. Player-coach Jeremy Cornish bagged the assist.
If the game wasn’t lively before, it certainly was after the goal was scored, as Raiders looked to build on their lead and Chelmsford desperately looked for an equaliser.
The play flew from end to end, and tempers boiled over on several occasions, such was the passion for both teams to seal the vital points. Penalties were traded and some great shots were put on both goalkeepers but neither side could score again.
In the final minutes, Raiders bizarrely opted to sit deep and let Chelmsford come at them but the hosts stood firm — even after Chelmsford took netminder Clements off in favour of an extra attacker — and when the final buzzer went, the joy was there for all to see.
Chelmsford Chieftains 5, Wightlink Raiders 0
The following day the result could not have been more different, as Raiders succumbed on Chieftains’ home ice in the National League Cup.
Two goals in the first period from Clarke and Julius Sinkovic gave the hosts a comfortable lead, which they built on the second period with two quick goals from Danny Hammond and Sinkovic again. Victory was completed just before second period break when Danny Wright scored.
Richard Facey was man of the match.
Tomorrow (Saturday) Raiders host Streatham Redskins, with face-off at Ryde Arena 6pm. On Sunday, they travel to Bracknell Hornets. Both are league games.