Raiders qualify for playoffs

London Raiders ensured playoff hockey at the weekend despite losing to MK Thunder on Sunday night

Cardiff’s loss on the Isle of Wight meant they could no longer catch Alan Blyth’s men for the eighth and final spot and Raiders will welcome the Welsh club to Lee Valley for the last match of the regular season on Saturday.

They will then take on champions Chelmsford over two legs in the first round of the play-offs during Easter weekend.

Blyth had asked his players to keep their discipline at the weekend and they did enough to beat Solent 5-4 on home ice on Saturday.

But they let their frustrations at referee Rick Adams get the better of them last night, collecting a whopping 143 minutes in penalties, with Tom Davis, David Oliver and Ross Wilkinson all ejected in the second period.

Raiders fell behind to a powerplay goal from Josh Nicklin in the seventh minute, as Oliver served a cross-checking penalty and it was 2-0 soon after as Ryan Coffey beat the returning Chris Douglas.

Vaclav Drabek replied before the first break for Raiders, but Alan Lack earned a 10-minute misconduct penalty after clashing with Simon Howard.

Thunder went 3-1 up through Tom Mboya, before Raiders lost Oliver to a game misconduct for abuse of official.

The hosts netted their fourth on the powerplay through Nicklin, before Davis was thrown out on a misconduct penalty.

And the Raiders bench was also given an abuse of official penalty, with Wilkinson ejected for roughing before the final period got underway.

That left the visitors to defend a five-minute 5-on-3 powerplay and Thunder went 5-1 up after just 23 seconds through Nicklin.

Raiders avoided further punishment until the closing stages when Nicklin netted his fourth of the night.

A late tripping call against Tom Castle allowed the visitors to finish the match with an extra man and they claimed a consolation when TJ Fillery’s shot came off the crossbar and Liam Chong picked out Grant Taylor to beat Damien King at close range.

Scorers, Thunder: Nicklin 4 Coffey 1 Mboya 1 Poziomkowski* 0+3 Line 0+2 Whyte 0+1 Rugholm* 0+1 Randall 0+1 Snape 0+1 H Goode 0+1.

Raiders: Drabek* 1 Taylor 1 Fillery 0+1 Lack 0+1 Chong 0+1.

Penalty minutes: Thunder 10 Raiders 143.

Shots on goal: King (MK) 34-2 Douglas (Raiders) 52-6.

Meanwhile on Saturday night they managed to get a victory against Solent Devils at the Lee Valley Ice Centre, winning 5-4 in the penultimate home game of the regular season.

Raiders had James Tanner back in their net, with Chris Douglas unavailable, and also welcomed import forward Jakub Kostelanksy back from illness, after he missed last weekend’s home defeat against the Isle of Wight.

And the Slovakian fired the home side ahead in the seventh minute, before doubling their lead with 11:02 on the clock.

Vaclav Drabek made it 3-0 before George Norcliffe and Michael Gorman netted either side of the first break to bring Solent back to within one goal.

Alan Lack clashed with Alex Cole and earned an extra penalty for slashing on top of a double minor for roughing.

But Raiders survived the shorthanded spell and gave themselves some breathing space late in the middle session as Grant Taylor netted a fourth.

A cross-checking call against Drabek gave Solent a powerplay either side of the break and they converted just 15 seconds into the final session through Norcliffe.

The same player scored again with 10 minutes left to complete his hat-trick and level it up at 4-4 and both sides had late powerplay chances.

Raiders lost Jacob Ranson – who was playing in borrowed skates – to a slashing penalty, before Solent’s Andrew Magee was binned 80 seconds later for high sticks.

Cole joined his team-mate on the sidelines seconds after and, once Ranson returned to the ice the home side had a spell of 5-on-3.

And, just as Magee’s penalty was coming to an end they made it count as Davis found the net for the winner.

Scorers, Raiders: Kostelansky* 2 Drabek* 1+1 Davis 1+1 Taylor 1 Chong 0+2 Lack 0+1 France 0+1 Ranson 0+1.

Solent: Norcliffe 3 Gorman 1 A Murray 0+2 Circenis* 0+1.

Penalty minutes: Raiders 20 Solent 20.

Shots on goal: Tanner 32 Cole 41.

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