Jiri Hanzal in white checked the influential Tim Smith out of the game. Picture by Nicky Craft.
WIGHTLINK Raiders maintained top spot in Division 1 of the National Ice Hockey League South with another four-point weekend.
The pressure was on Jeremy Cornish’s men to produce the goods against Invicta Dynamos and Milton Keynes Thunder, with rivals Chelmsford Chieftains and Romford Raiders breathing down their necks.
But they managed to stay ahead, thanks to a thumping 5-3 home victory over the physical Dynamos, and a straightforward 4-0 win at Thunder on Sunday.
In a thrilling game at Ryde Arena, Raiders took an early lead when Robbie Brown netted from Alex Murray in the fifth minute. However, that was quickly cancelled by Tim Smith’s even-handed effort two minutes later.
No further goals were scored in the period, and it took until the 25th minute for Raiders to make the breakthrough. Invicta’s Justin Noble was penalised for a check from behind, and with the extra man, the hosts made it count, Craig Tribe netting from Brown and Murray. Again though, Invicta came back, scoring through Smith after Cornish was sitting out a roughing penalty.
However, this time, there was room for another goal, as, just eight seconds from the break, Cornish netted the go-ahead from Tribe.
The final period featured a goal in the 45th minute from Jiri Hanzal — who later took out Invicta’s Smith with a huge hit — and a fifth from Richard Facey.
Along the way Raiders also had two goals disallowed, while Invicta had the last word on the scoring with an effort from the ever-dangerous Peter Vaisenen.
On Sunday, Raiders made the long trip to Milton Keynes and took the points with two goals in each of the opening two periods.
Hanzal and Cornish were both on target in the opening two minutes, Hanzal netting from Murray at 1.03, and Cornish making it 2-0 at 1.35, from Brown and Tribe.
Two goals from Nathan Taylor in the second period sealed the win over a Milton Keynes side which didn’t record a single penalty and just 29 shots. They had seven powerplay opportunities throughout the game but Matt Colclough and the Raiders’ defence thwarted any attacks with ease.
Tomorrow (Saturday), Raiders host Chelmsford Chieftains in the NIHL Cup, and then on Sunday have a crucial league clash at second-placed Romford Raiders, who have games in hand over the Islanders. Face off on Saturday is 6pm.