Despite a battling display the Invicta Dynamos were unable to keep the NIHL Southern Cup out of the hands of the Chelmsford Chieftains on Sunday as the Essex outfit won 4-2 in Gillingham and took the silverware with an 8-5 aggregate victory.
The Mos had 17 players at their disposal but Haydn, Taylor and Bailey Wootton, Adam McNicoll and James Richardson would not be amongst them. Meanwhile the Chieftains had 15 but were minus Darren Brown, Daniel Wright, Nathanael Williams, Carl Graham and Liam Chong. Damien King and Sonny Phillips were the starting netminders.
A bumper crowd at the SilverBlades saw both teams go looking for the first goal – Ashley Jackson unable to flick beyond Sonny Phillips from right in front whilst Anthony Leone used Ondrej Zosiak as a screen before aiming low to the near post but Damien King made the block. As the visitors found themselves in penalty trouble the hosts then took the initiative – Adam Rehak finding space in the slot but forcing an instinctive stop from Phillips who then also held a Steve Osman attempt through traffic. Just as the Mos looked to be on top a Callum Fowler giveaway presented the ever dangerous Juraj Huska with the puck unguarded in the slot but King reacted quickly to glove the Slovak’s slapshot. The save looked all the more important at 16.09 as the Dynamos then took the lead – Brad Gutridge circling out from behind the net and sweeping to the crease for Nicky Lewis to stab home at the back post and send the home fans into delirium. The rising decibel level inside the SilverBlades spurred the hosts on and as the powerplay opportunities continued Fowler thought he had notched a second – the captain’s wrist shot from the left circle hitting the bar sparking celebrations and the brass bonanza but referee Stephenson calling no goal to halt the party atmosphere. When the buzzer sounded the teams returned to the changing rooms with the Mos one up on the night and tie perfectly poised at 4-4 on aggregate.
In the second period a misplaced pass from Elliott Dewey gifted Grant Bartlett a clear route to goal but Damien King came to the defenceman’s rescue with a quick pad save. Down the other end Steve Osman’s back post pass was fired towards twine by Tommy Ralph but Sonny Phillips covered the ground to deny a certain goal before later stopping Ralph again with a one-timer in the slot. In an end-to end encounter Brandon Ayliffe tested the glove hand reactions of King from wide left before Osman prompted the same from Phillips on a quick counter. Grant Bartlett threatened to escape clear late on but a thumping open ice hit from Ondrej Zosiak sent him tumbling as the game became increasingly physical. With tensions rising they then spilled over – Cameron Bartlett with a slash on Adam Rehak behind the play unseen by the referee. Rehak then chased down Callum Wells who reacted to a hit with a slash of his own before grabbing the Czech around the neck. Mason Webster instantly stepped in and dropped the gloves – both players landing a couple of punches before the Mos man slipped ending the bout. Wells would receive 2 for slashing and 2+2 for roughing and Webster just 2+2 for roughing placing the Mos on a powerplay. However it was the Chieftains who would tally – 36.18 the moment when Arran Strawson’s blue line shot hit the shins of Juraj Huska and allowed the Slovak to escape on the breakaway before thundering a slapshot beyond King for a shorthanded strike. A late holding penalty on Harrison Lillis then also proved costly – at 39.38 Huska found Jake Sylvester between the circles and he roofed over the netminder to put the Chieftains 2-1 up on the night and 6-4 ahead on aggregate.
Needing two without reply to level and three to win the Mos’ chances of a comeback looked dented immediately after the restart as Adam Rehak collapsed in the corner with a leg injury that saw him require assistance to leave the ice however the battling Czech would later return to the game and play through the pain. His pain would have felt worse at 43.55 – Brandon Ayliffe and Grant Bartlett escaping 2-on-1 and Bartlett’s pass onto the tape of his teammate who finished at the back stick for a three goal aggregate lead. Steve Osman should have answered immediately but he steered a rebound wide at the far post with the goal gaping and at his mercy. Nevertheless the home side continued to push on and, when Matthew Turner was sent to the box for tripping, they were back on the board at 46.54 – Elliott Dewey’s blue line shot flicked on by Ashley Jackson to the rear upright where Nicky Lewis prodded home to reduce the deficit on the night to 3-2 – 7-5 overall. The energetic Scott Bailey tried to cut further into the visitors’ lead but his effort from wide left was over the bar. Meanwhile Chelmsford shut up shop and resorted to a game of counter attack – a game they play all too well with both Oliver Baldock and Jake Sylvester both forcing reaction saves from Damien King as time began to slip away. With the Dynamos forced to chase the game King would be pulled from his net late on and the Chieftains peppered the empty target – both Cameron and Grant Bartlett hitting the post with shots from the neutral zone before the final blow came at 59.51. Grant Bartlett missed the unguarded frame from behind the blue line but was quick enough to retrieve the rebound off of the back boards and fire in to seal the 4-2 win – 8-5 on aggregate.
So at the final buzzer it was ultimately disappointment for the Dynamos despite a determined display that left the players visibly exhausted. The Mos gave there all but defensive errors and the clinical finishing of the Chieftains ultimately resulted in another trophy making its way to Essex. Man of the match awards went to Jake Sylvester of the visitors and Nicky Lewis of the hosts.
Written by Paul Bennett.