ICE HOCKEYWightlink Raiders 5, Romford Raiders 2
A BRILLIANT display in the face of some rough tactics from ENL Division 1 league leaders Romford, earned Wightlink Raiders all the points and bragging rights on Saturday night.
Raiders, who won the league last year, showed that while they are mathematically out of the title race, they will not relinquish their crown without a fight.
And fight they did, as Romford tried every trick in the book to stop their opponents from running away with the game.
Raiders almost scored inside the first 30 seconds but somehow Joe Rand missed the net, before Romford incurred their first penalty of the game.
That should have given Raiders the opportunity to take the lead but it was Romford who celebrated instead when they netted on the breakaway — although there was more than the hint of a hand pass in the process.
However, Raiders were back on level terms three minutes later when, one second into another powerplay, Dominic Hopkins slammed in from the blue line.
They doubled their advantage with ten minutes gone, when Steve Gosset netted a lovely goal from Alex Murray’s pass.
Raiders made the most of the next powerplay opportunity, scoring their third just seven seconds after the penalty started, through Richard Facey.
If the first period was about goals, the second period was about hits — and lots of them.
Romford, unable to provide a goal to answer Raiders’ game, took to using their bodies against Raiders’ top players, with some sly hitting going on behind the referee’s back.
It seemed to be only a matter of time before someone got hurt, and at 29.22 the inevitable happened when Romford’s rather angry young player, Billy Phillips, skated half the ice to slam into Grant Rounding, sending the Raiders’ forward flying and clutching his knee.
Minutes later, Raiders were celebrating a goal but the referees disallowed it because the goal had been pushed off its moorings, before Rand — who had been causing problems all night — was slashed across the wrists for the third time.
Rand made them pay just minutes later when, from nowhere, he weaved his way down the right-hand side of the rink and then shot beautifully into the top left-hand corner of the net.
The third period featured more physical play although Romford were certainly dominant as they tried to claw back the deficit.
They scored a good goal through Tyrone Miller at 44.22 but then were dealt a blow when a huge, but clean, hit on import Juraj Huska, left him in a crumpled heap.
Raiders looked to be holding out, thanks to some great saves from man of the match Liam McAlister, but with two minutes left incurred a penalty, and then Romford pulled their netminder to have six attacking skaters.
But with just 15 seconds left, Raiders gained vital possession, and from a sitting position just under Romford’s bench, Facey swept home the final goal.
Tomorrow (Saturday), Romford return to Ryde Arena, but this time for the second leg of the annual Raiders Cup competition. There is all to play for as the sides drew 4-4 in the first leg. Face-off is at 6.15pm.