Raiders season ends at Basingstoke
There was to be no fairytale finish for Raiders as their National League play-off hopes came to an end in Basingstoke.
Beaten 7-4 at Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre the night before, Raiders travelled to Hampshire for the return leg without forwards JJ Pitchley, Juraj Huska and Ollie Baldock, while the hosts were without the suspended Dan Scott and scratched other members of their line-up.
The opening few minutes were scrappy, with Aaron Connolly thumping a shot into the shoulder of Michael Gray.
The Raiders goalie also denied Ivan Antonov and Stuart Mogg, while Marek Nahlik and Callum Burnett called Dean Skinns into action at the other end.
Hallam Wilson was called for hooking, handing Raiders a power play, but they could not make their extra man count and Kurt Reynolds had a shot grabbed by Gray.
Mogg and Grant Rounding also saw shots saved, while Connolly wasted a good chance for the hosts, before Nahlik’s shot was juggled by Skinns.
Roman Malinik was next to test Gray, with Tomas Karpov firing over the crossbar before Mogg had a shot saved before the interval.
Raiders made a bright start to the middle session, with Nahlik and Jake Sylvester both shooting wide, but Gray had to produce a superb pad save to thwart Dan Davies.
Julian Smith was then binned for hooking to give Bison their first power play of the night, but Raiders survived and saw Gray kick out another Antonov effort, while also denying Rounding.
Davies fired wide, before Rounding saw Gray produce another good save, but Callum Wells was called for slashing to hand Bison another power play.
Andy Munroe blocked Mogg’s blast, before Sean Barry was binned for holding and Connolly fired over during the man advantage.
Gray juggled a blast from Reynolds but was finally beaten in the 34th minute as Josh Smith tipped in Malinik’s blast for a power play goal.
And Raiders could not capitalise on a power play of their own when Wilson was binned for hooking, as Munroe’s shot was knocked away by the stick of Skinns.
There were more Gray heroics to kick out Rounding’s shot on the turn, before John Connolly was called for interference in the final minute of the session and Mogg tested Gray’s glove hand.
And Bison doubled their lead with just two seconds left on the clock following a huge scramble in front of Gray’s net, with Smith credited with the goal after some debate.
The first action of the final period saw Connolly force Gray to deflect his shot wide, before Karpov was called for boarding and Raiders went on the power play.
Rounding went close to a shorthanded goal, but was denied by Gray, before Sylvester had a shot kicked out by Skinns.
And Bison went 3-0 up with just over 10 minutes left to play as Malinik teed up Paul Petts to tip the puck home.
Brandon Ayliffe created a chance for himself and rang the mask of Skinns, who covered an effort from Sylvester soon after as Raiders looked for some small consolation.
But Skinns held firm for a shut out as understrength Raiders saw a promising season end with a play-off exit at the hands of the league champions.
Report courtesy of Lee Power from The Romford Recorder