Matt Vizzari celebrates his goal. Picture by Peter Boam.
WIGHTLINK Raiders were undone once again by Chelmsford Chieftains last weekend, with late goals costing them a place in the NIHL Cup final.
The Islanders played fantastically well on Saturday to hold a 4-2 lead but two goals inside the closing five minutes — the equaliser coming 28 seconds from time — left the Raiders with no advantage going into Sunday’s second leg.
And at Chelmsford’s fortress rink, the hosts held firm, winning 3-1 to take the semi-final 7-5.
On Saturday, the Raiders had a brilliant start, Craig Tribe nudging the puck home from close range to take the lead 90 seconds in.
As expected though, Chelmsford would be no pushovers and the two sides played some fast and expansive hockey to entertain the large crowd. Chelmsford pulled a goal back on the powerplay around four minutes later but soon, Raiders fans were celebrating once more when man of the match Matt Vizzari netted a great goal on the breakaway.
Raiders were in control at this point, with Chelmsford making little headway. However, they somehow drew level with five minutes of the period left, when Daniel Volrab’s soft shot crept through Matt Colclough’s pads.
The second period was the best by the Raiders all season, opening up a two-goal lead and frustrating the Essex outfit.
Damon Larter gave the hosts the lead with a wonderful shot from the blue line, straight from a face-off and towards the end of the session, the on-rushing Steven Osman timed his shot perfectly from Ricky Attrill’s cross-net pass to make it 4-2.
Between the goals there was an excellent glancing save by Colclough from a penalty shot, after Alex Barker brought down Darren Brown.
Raiders seemed to heading towards a vital home victory in the third period, holding firm against a Chieftains side desperate to claw back the deficit. But with just over three minutes left on the clock, they let Chelmsford right back in. First, Gary Clark netted to bring the score to 4-3, before Volrab netted the decisive equaliser.
In a tense, and low-scoring second leg, Raiders left it too late to mount a comeback.
Chelmsford took the lead in the sixth minute through Clarke, and then doubled their advantage with half an hour on the clock, through Matthew Turner.
It wasn’t until 55.58 that Raiders got on the scoresheet, Jeremy Cornish scoring from Tribe and Barker, and with just a goal to get, they pulled Colclough from the ice in favour of an extra attacker. The gamble did not pay off, as Turner netted his second of the night and made it 3-1, with just 51 seconds left.
Raiders return to league action tomorrow (Saturday) as they host Cardiff Devils in the league, face off at Ryde Arena is at 6pm. On Sunday, the side travel back up to Chelmsford in the South East Trophy.