No giant killing for brave Raiders

London Raiders saw their hopes of a National League play-off shock shattered by regular season champions Chelmsford.

But they gave their rivals plenty to think about over the two-legged quarter-final before succumbing to a 10-5 aggregate defeat.

Raiders had drawn the top seeds after finishing the campaign in eighth place, which was no mean feat given the fact they suffered a 19-game losing run and a player exodus midway through the season.

But they fought and battled for the entire 120 minutes of their weekend double-header, only to come up against a well-drilled Chieftains outfit looking to complete the double.

Danny Hammond put the visitors ahead at Lee Valley on Saturday, but David Oliver fired Raiders level in the 13th minute.

The home side’s joy was shortlived as Darren Brown restored Chelmsford’s lead 22 seconds later, but the first period ended all square as Jacob Ranson set up Liam Chong just before the buzzer.

Raiders then rocked their opponents by taking a 3-2 lead early in the second period, through Stephen Deacon, but a delay of game minor against defenceman Matt France for shooting the puck over the plexi handed Chieftains a powerplay chance which they gratefully accepted as Lukas Zatopek beat Chris Douglas.

Brown put the visitors 4-3 ahead with his second goal of the night, but it was still all to play for at the start of the final stanza.

Ryan Giles opened up a two-goal game in the 45th minute, though, and a late slashing call against Alan Lack allowed Chieftains to net on another powerplay through import Martin Piecha to give themselves extra breathing space for the return meeting at the Riverside Ice Arena last night.

Raiders needed a good start in the second leg, but lost captain Tom Davis to a hooking penalty in the first minute.

They survived the shorthanded spell, and another when Grant Taylor was binned for the same offence, but could not capitalise on a holding call againt Piecha.

And the home side broke the deadlock in the 17th minute through Hammond to take a four-goal lead on aggregate.

Raiders hit back through defenceman Phil Manny, who would take their man of the match award, early in the second period and it remained deadlocked until the penultimate minute of the session when Chieftains regained the lead on the night through Ross Brears.

That left Raiders with a mountain to climb in the last 20 minutes of the tie and the gloves came off as Taylor and Lack scuffled with Michael Ranby and Alex Staples.

All combatants earned four minutes for roughing, but Raiders then fell further behind just 27 seconds after the penalties were handed out as Hammond potted his second of the night.

Oliver picked up a 10-minute misconduct penalty soon after and, although Lack replied for the visitors with seven minutes remaining, it proved merely a consolation.

aiders withdrew goalie Chris Douglas for an extra skater late on, in a bid to at least draw level on the night, only to see Matt Turner fire into the empty net with four seconds left on the clock.

Chelmsford will now meet Isle of Wight in the semi-finals, while Milton Keynes and Invicta face off in the other last-four tie.

But Raiders head off into the summer reflecting on a brave effort and wondering what might have been with a settled side throughout the season.

Scorers (Sat), Raiders: Deacon 1+1 Chong 1 Oliver 1 Wootton 0+1 Peters 0+1 Ranson 0+1.

Chieftains: Brown 2 Hammond 1+2 Zatopek* 1+1 Giles 1+1 Piecha* 1 Brears 0+3 Turner 0+2 Bartlett 0+1 Smith 0+1.

Penalty minutes: Raiders 12 Chieftains 10.

Shots on goal: Douglas (Raiders) 37 Clements (Chieftains) 28.

(Sun), Chieftains: Hammond 2+1 Brears 1+1 Turner 1 Piecha* 0+2 Bartlett 0+1 Zatopek* 0+1.

Raiders: Lack 1 Manny 1 Deacon 0+1 Taylor 0+1.

Penalty minutes: Chieftains 20 Raiders 26.

Shots on goal: Clements (Chieftains) 41 Douglas (Raiders) 46.

 

Picture used with permission from Steve Sutherland

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