The Invicta Dynamos have made the NIHL Southern Cup semi-finals despite a 5-1 home loss to the Chelmsford Chieftains on Sunday where forward Jacob Ranson netted his third of the season.
The Mos came into the tie short Adam McNicoll, Joshua Condren and the recently departed Mark McGill so it was to be a big night in goal for Steve Nightingale as he faced the reigning league champions. Having already overcome the Dynamos 4-2 and 11-0 in 2015/16, the Chieftains unsurprisingly enjoyed the territorial advantage in the opening moments – Juraj Huska coming closest with a stinger from the right circle that Nightingale padded to safety. The shot stopper then denied Darren Brown’s wrist drive from the slot with a quick glove save before the best opportunity actually came the way of the Mos – Bailey Wootton countering down the right and playing a centring pass for the on-rushing Eriks Ozollapa in the middle but the Latvian could not find a way beyond Ben Clements. The miss would prove costly – 12.58 the moment when Alex Staples aimed for goal from the blue line and watched as Steve Nightingale looked to have made the save only for the puck to trickle agonisingly into the twine behind him. At 14.36 it was then 2-0 – Darren Brown forcing Nightingale into a low block from close range and Juraj Huska scooping up the rebound and flicking a backhand into the roof of the target to double his team’s lead.
In the second frame Ondrej Zosiak almost caught Ben Clements unaware with a wrist shot from behind the blue line that pinged off of his shoulder to safety before Chelmsford added a third to their tally at 25.36. Juraj Huska found Ross Brears in space close left and his wrist shot caught the underside of Steve Nightingale’s glove before finding the bottom far corner of the net for 3-0. It could have been 3-1 seconds later but the crossbar spared the visitors when Zosiak’s drive from the left circle beat Clements only to thunder to safety via the frame to keep the hosts off of the scoreboard. Both sides then had good chances – Anthony Leone going clear just left of the target, but seeing his attempt to find the top far corner denied by the glove of Nightingale, before Eriks Ozollapa beat his defenceman around the outside before forcing Clements into a pad save from close right. Eventually, during a penalty to the Mos for too many men, the Chieftains claimed a fourth – the clock stopping at 37.06 after Cameron Bartlett’s blue line drive was beaten away by Nightingale but only in the direction of Leone who followed up with a simple finish for 4-0. That advantage could have been extended soon after when Bartlett then escaped on the breakaway but the Chelmsford man attempted a sharp turn, lost an edge and found the ice when bearing down on the target.
In the final period a holding penalty on Harrison Lillis immediately put the Mos under pressure but Steve Nightingale did well to save from Daniel Hammond and Anthony Leone in quick succession. When Grant Bartlett then sat for tripping the Dynamos had perhaps their best spell of the game – Ondrej Zosiak’s slapshot only being denied by the skate of an outstretched Ben Clements whilst Nicky Lewis was found alone close left but had to take his shot on the backhand and also failed to beat the goalie. Next up Eriks Ozollapa presented Bailey Wootton with a chance in the middle but he fired down the gut of the netminder before the extra pressure finally told at 49.34. The Mos would break their duck as Ozollapa threaded a pass beyond Lukas Zatopek putting Jacob Ranson clear and the forward shifted the puck around the attempted interception of Clements before finishing from close left for 4-1. Chelmsford called a timeout to restore focus and they then added the final goal of the game at 52.59 – Juraj Huska catching Steve Nightingale unprepared with a wrist shot on the spin from tight right that sealed the 5-1 victory.
So it was defeat for the Mos but in the circumstances not a disaster with the team still qualifying for the next round of the cup. Having fallen to a cricket score in Essex just weeks ago the Dynamos battled resiliently and only a more clinical edge in front of net saw Chelmsford claim the points and go on to win the group. Meanwhile Steve Nightingale coped well having been thrust into the action and ended the tie with a save percentage of 88.37% from 43 shots. Man of the match awards would go to Nicky Lewis of the hosts and Alex Staples of the Chieftains.
Written by Paul Bennett