A performance of the season from the Invicta Dynamos saw them secure a five goal advantage heading into game two of the playoff final after a thumping 8-3 win over league and cup winners Chelmsford at the SilverBlades in game one on Saturday.
The Chieftains came into the tie with 17 players – only Oliver Baldock, Daniel Wright and Nathanael Williams unavailable. The Mos had one more – Adam McNicoll and the trio of Haydn, Taylor and Bailey Wootton absent whilst James Richardson sat out in favour of Damien King and John Dibble. King and Sonny Phillips were the starting netminders.
The opening period could not have started better for the visitors – Juraj Huska’s pass setting Liam Chong 1-on-1 and the league all-star firing high over the shoulder of Damien King and into the far corner form the left circle after just 23 seconds. Chelmsford’s celebrations against the boards knocked plexi loose from its fixings and saw a delay of several minutes as repairs were made – a break that possibly benefited the Mos having halted the Chieftains’ post goal momentum. When the action restarted an interference minor on Carl Graham saw the Dynamos hit back instantly. Graham had sat for just 7 seconds when great one-touch hockey ended with Adam Rehak firing to the crease where Callum Fowler poked under Sonny Phillips for 1-1 at 4.09. Confidence then surged and the hosts added another at 7.24 – Chelmsford’s netminder had been almost impenetrable on his last visit but he would have wanted this one back as Ashley Jackson’s speculative effort to the far post from wide right trickled past his pads for 2-1. The visiting defence looked rattled and uncharacteristically sloppy as the Mos forced mistakes and added a third at 7.45 – Steve Osman winning a duel with Anthony Leone for a loose puck before feeding Scott Bailey in the slot who rifled inside the bottom left corner. Chemsford called a timeout but were fortunate not to fall further behind when Rehak then struck the bar from close right with a shot that could have put the Mos out of sight. However the league winners would rally and, though Danny Hammond and Jake Sylvester were unable to link-up when they countered dangerously on a 2-on-1, the visitors were back on the board at 19.36 to cut the deficit to one. Hammond feigned a move behind the net from close right instead teeing up Matt Turner on the edge of the crease who poked under the pads of King whilst Tommy Ralph sat for holding to make it 3-2.
An action packed first period was followed by an equally enthralling second and the Dynamos had the puck in the net less than a minute after the restart to lead 4-2. Arran Strawson’s lofted clearance should have been a comfortable pickup for the retreating Callum Wells but Adam Rehak pounced on his indecision – stealing possession with one touch and swatting under Sonny Phillips with another at 20.57. Chelmsford refused to hide though and had replied by 22.38 – Liam Chong’s blue line drive through traffic looking to have caught a deflection en route from Jake Sylvester leaving Damien King no chance to react for 4-3. It looked for all the world that the Chieftains had then levelled at 24.06 – Juraj Huska’s drive from between the circles slipping between the legs of King with Brandon Ayliffe then poking over the line behind the netminder but referee Blaine Evans called no goal having blown his whistle believing the puck to be frozen. Huska’s angry protests saw the Slovak given a 10 minute misconduct so he watched on as his team fell another behind at 29.04. With Phillips also given 2 for delaying the game having been adjudged to have deliberately moved his net, Ondrej Zosiak pummelled in a rebound with a slapshot from the back of the right circle for 5-3 halfway through the frame. Grant Bartlett could have replied when he escaped clear down the left but his effort to the far post was wide before the Chieftains had another strike washed out at 36.37. With the referee’s arm up for a delayed penalty against Harrison Lillis, Danny Hammond picked up a rebound and flicked beyond King from point blank range but Evans washed out the goal for man in the crease or a touch by the Dynamos – either way the visitors seemed hard done by.
In the final frame the home side heaped misery on a Chelmsford team still ruing two disallowed goals and added their sixth at 44.07 – Scott Bailey’s wrist shot from deep hitting the glove of Sonny Phillips and looping both over him and over the line with the netminder unaware of the puck’s location until he heard the SilverBlades roar. An interference penalty on Alex Staples then gave the Dynamos another powerplay and they added a seventh at 48.26 to move four clear – Adam Rehak doing a full 360 spin to evade the challenge of Sean Barry left of the target before tucking under Phillips on the backhand to make it 7-3. Grant Bartlett tried to eat into the deficit with a low drive from right in front but Damien King turned his shot wide before the Mos added the last of the night at 53.10. Steve Osman entered the final third down the middle, skipped right around the challenge of Liam Chong and tucked low inside the far corner with a goal that sealed a remarkable 8-3 victory.
So it was unquestionably advantage Dynamos who finished the first leg with a bigger lead than they would ever have had the cheek to ask for but the message from the camp was definitely that the job was only half done with another 60 minutes to play in Essex the following night. Nevertheless it was a performance of the season from the Mos who hustled the Chieftains into mistakes and made their chances and moments of fortune count. Man of the match awards went to Liam Chong of Chelmsford and Ashley Jackson of the Dynamos.
Written by Paul Bennett.