A hugely fortunate overtime goal was all that separated the Invicta Dynamos and London Raiders in Gillingham on Sunday night as the Mos saw out 2017 with a narrow 3-2 loss at the hands of their opponents in their final NIHL Cup game.
Despite the Dynamos already being out of contention in the cup, Planet Ice Gillingham welcomed a sizeable crowd donned in Christmas jumpers looking to see out the year on a high. The hosts would be without suspended duo George Hoang and Joshua Condren, as well as Justin Robinson, whilst London made do without Sam Roberts, Tom Davis, Callum Wells, Alan Lack and Olegs Lascenko. Both sides started their backup netminders – John Dibble between the posts for the Mos and Zachary Grandy-Smith in place for the Raiders.
In the opening frame the Mos thought they had an early lead – Jaroslav Cesky forcing in from point blank range but referee Blaine Evans washing out the goal possibly due to contact with the netminder. Both teams then endured spells in the box – Marek Nahlik called for slashing and Mason Webster’s slightly late hit on Thomas Beesley called as checking to the head. In front of net the hosts arguably looked the more likely to score – Ashley Jackson forcing a swift glove save from Zachary Grandy-Smith from close right and Callum Fowler escaping on the breakaway only to lose control in front of the target. Ondrej Zosiak almost went coast-to-coast as he reappeared behind the net and flicked high to the near post but the netminder blocked well. Late on Jake Sylvester twice came close for London – a shot from the slot diverted wide off the arm of John Dibble and both a point blank effort close left and a rebound attempt close right being kept at bay.
Despite leading the shot count 18 to 12 in the first, the Mos had nothing to show for their slight dominance until early in the second when they finally found twine. At 22.44 Callum Fowler’s backhand shot was saved by Zachary Grandy-Smith but Mason Webster was on hand to stab home the rebound from right in front for 1-0. Jaroslav Cesky could and should have doubled that lead almost instantly as Scott Bailey found him clear close right but the import swatted the puck well wide to leave London within one. That miss would prove costly at 26.23 – Juraj Huska skipping to the right of the defenceman for a sight of goal and drilling a slapshot over the reach of John Dibble from the right circle to tie it up at 1-1.
Now level, the Raiders could have gone ahead soon after however Marek Nahlik’s breakaway attempt flew over the netminder but off the inside of both posts before bouncing clear. Down the other end and Ashley Jackson was again denied by Zachary Grandy-Smith from the slot whilst John Dibble had to be on form to turn down Jake Pitchley from between the circles and Nahlik from close left. Late on it was the Dynamos’ turn to be thwarted by the goal frame – Jaroslav Cesky side stepping his man and firing over the netminder but onto the underside of the bar with the puck then bouncing towards the line and referee Blaine Evans convinced it didn’t cross.
The Mos began the third on the powerplay, after a late penalty to Marek Nahlik in the second, and they took advantage at 41.18 – Ashley Jackson coming out from behind the net and firing through the glove of Zachary Grandy-Smith at his near post from close right. One again though they were pegged back swiftly – Juraj Huska’s pass finding Thomas Beesley who forced in off the pads of John Dibble on the stretch from right in front for 2-2 at 44.24.
A brief delay followed as referee Blaine Evans took a puck to his headgear that left his visor in need of repairs but the timeout did little to stop the game simmering as Harrison Lillis and Brandon Ayliffe roughed each other up behind the play. Jake Pitchley joined in with a shove to Ondrej Zosiak so far behind the puck that it was out of sight of the officials before a flash point followed at 55.43. Callum Burnett and Zosiak became tangled against the boards but Burnett reacted by throwing punches at the Slovak who was content to just hold him at bay. Brandon Webster then raced in, gloves already ice bound, but was held by the linesman preventing a scrap. Both Webster and Ayliffe took 2 for holding and 2 for roughing.
With neither team able to break the deadlock in what remained of the third the tie then went to overtime where the Mos spurned an early powerplay before losing out in the most unfortunate of circumstances. At 62.59 Marek Nahlik’s shot from wide right was into the pads of John Dibble but the puck rebounded into the skates of Tommy Ralph who was desperately trying to make his way back and over the line to seal a 3-2 London victory.
So it was not to be the end to 2017 that the Mos wanted but ultimately they were undone by misfortune in a tie that could have gone either way. Of some comfort was the fact that the loss came without consequence with the home side’s cup campaign already at an end. Man of the match awards went to Mason Webster of the hosts and Matt Turner of the visitors.
Written by Paul Bennett.