Jiri Hanzal got Raiders off to the perfect start against Romford, scoring in the first minute. Picture by Ashley Vaughan.
WIGHTLINK Raiders have risen to the top of the National Ice Hockey League Division 1 South after a gritty performance at Solent and Gosport Devils on Sunday.
And another convincing victory the night before at home to Romford Raiders in the South East Trophy left them in a fantastic position to reach the finals of the competition.
Wightlink Raiders 4, Romford Raiders 0
A dominant performance at Ryde Arena in the South East Trophy left them needing to win this weekend to reach the final against Chelmsford early next year.
Putting in their most complete performance of the season, Wightlink completely tamed the normally competitive Romford, frustrating them so much that tempers spilled over just minutes from the end.
With the points already in the bag, Wightlink were happy to run the clock down while Romford decided it was time to get revenge and proceeded to start a large brawl just before the final buzzer.
As a result, Romford’s Tom Davis and David Oliver were both issued with two plus ten-minute penalties, while Wightlink’s Steve Gosset suffered the same fate. Romford netminder Michael Gray mindlessly threw himself into the fight and was given a match penalty as a result.
It put a dampener on what had been a great night for Wightlink, and only proved to home fans how much their team can rile an opposition into changing tactics.
The match began perfectly when Jiri Hanzal netted on the powerplay, from Corey Watkins and Niall Bound inside the first minute. Just before the break they doubled their advantage when Richard Facey continued his good form.
The second period saw Craig Tribe add a third for Wightlink, from Damon Larter and Watkins, before victory was sealed five minutes from time when player-coach Jeremy Cornish netted.
Man of the match Matt Colclough confirmed his status as the best netminder, stopping 45 shots — including a penalty shot which was given to Romford one second from time.
Solent and Gosport 2, Wightlink Raiders 2
On Sunday, Raiders ground out victory at Gosport to go top of the league.
The game was closer than many were expecting as the Raiders fired a massive 81 shots on the Devils’ netminder who produced a great all-round performance.
Gosport took the lead after just 47 seconds but Raiders were soon level when Bound scored, before Hanzal gave them the lead. A second-period goal from Robbie Brown put distance between the sides but the period ended with worry when Nathan Taylor was the victim of a late hit and was taken to hospital for treatment on chest pain.
Tests showed Taylor had severe bruising to the ribs and chest, and could now be out of action for six to eight weeks, a real blow to the side.
While Gosport pulled a goal back with 13 minutes left, Raiders held on to take the top spot.
Raiders have no home match this weekend but travel to Romford on Sunday for their vital South East Trophy clash.