Raiders end long wait to beat Chelmsford
A depleted London Raiders produced their best result in recent years to beat defending champions Chelmsford at Lee Valley Saturday night.
Raiders had lost their previous 19 meetings with the Chieftains, since Frankie Harvey’s hat-trick helped them to a 5-3 win at the Riverside Ice Arena on December 8, 2013.
And they went into this National League cup meeting with the odds against them, without starting goalie Michael Gray, back-up goalie Harry Buckingham, import and leading scorer Marek Nahlik, captain Tom Davis and James Pentecost, their second-highest scorer this season.
Peterborough’s Dan Lane was drafted in as emergency cover in goal, while new Slovakian signing Slavomir Buda was given his debut in a gold and blue jersey and Raiders raced out of the blocks to leave the visitors shellshocked.
Less than two minutes were on the clock when Buda opened his account and a roughing penalty against Anthony Leone allowed Julian Smith, captaining Raiders once again in the absence of Davis, to double the advantage on the powerplay with under four minutes played.
The hosts were in dreamland when Mark Robinson beat Ben Clements for his first Raiders goal to make it 3-0 in the 10th minute, forcing the visitors to call a time-out.
And Raiders fired a fourth in the 12th minute as Buda set up defenceman Matt France to score against his former club.
A slashing penalty against JJ Pitchley was successfully killed off by Raiders as Lane turned aside 13 shots in the opening period and the gloves came off in the middle session as France clashed with Cameron Bartlett, whose additional 2+10 checking to the head penalty gave Raiders a powerplay chance.
Raiders made their extra man count to move 5-0 up, as Pitchley scored his fourth goal of the season and held on to that advantage until midway through the final period.
Chelmsford’s Grant Bartlett was ejected early in the session, but his team-mates finally opened their account in the 50th minute through Sean Barry, who then combined with Juraj Huska to set up Alex Staples just over a minute later.
Raiders moved 6-2 up soon after, though, as Bailey Chittock scored against his old club and it proved decisive as the visitors mounted a late surge to cut the gap to just one.
Cameron Bartlett grabbed Chelmsford’s third goal of the night, with just over four minutes remaining, and Darren Brown made it 6-4 with two and a half minutes left on the clock.
Bartlett bagged his second with 103 seconds to go, but shortstaffed Raiders, running out of steam, dug deep to protect their now slender lead for a memorable derby success.
It had been a long time coming, and after nine successive league losses to their fierce rivals, as well as six cup defeats and four in the play-offs, it was most welcome.
Raiders return to action with a home match against Invicta next weekend, when they will be wearing their pink jerseys in support of Breast Cancer Now.
Raiders: Slavomir Buda* 1+2 Bailey Chittock 1+1 JJ Pitchley 1+1 Matt France 1+1 Mark Robinson 1 Julian Smith 1 Sam Roberts 0+1 Thomas Beesley 0+1 Ross Connolly 0+1.
Chieftains: Cameron Bartlett 2 Alex Staples 1+2 Sean Barry 1+1 Darren Brown 1+1 Juraj Huska* 0+2 Dan Hammond 0+1 Nathanael Williams 0+1 Matt Turner 0+1.
Penalty minutes: Raiders 14 Chelmsford 86.
Shots faced: Dan Lane (L) 13-9-16=38-5 Ben Clements (C, 59:50) 14-9-7=30-6 Empty net (C, 0:10).
Report courtesy of the Romford Recorder