Adam McNicoll’s 50th minute goal was all that separated the sides on Sunday as a shortbenched Invicta Dynamos narrowly overcame a battling Milton Keynes Thunder outfit 2-1 in the NIHL South Division 1 to complete a four point weekend.
The Dynamos came into the tie with just 12 skaters and a pair of netminders as injuries and suspensions took their toll and they were sluggish from the off with a late coach trip back from Cardiff the night before evident in their play. Callum Fowler came closest to the opener having turned his man inside out but the forward found former EPL shot stopper Damien King in no mood to give up the breakthrough. King was then formidable again moments later – the goalie denying Steve Osman’s effort from the right and then scrambling to stop Anthony Leone’s follow up the other side of the crease. The Thunder were giving up plenty in territory but they created their own chances on the counter – Jamie Line’s pace a constant threat as he escaped in behind only for Mark Lee to turn his effort to safety. They then came close to what would have been a controversial strike – Lee leaving his net to play the puck but Thomas Castle collecting in the neutral zone and firing onto the frame of a now unmarked target – the action allowed to continue despite one of Castle’s teammates in an offside position deep in the attacking third.
After a goalless opening frame the Dynamos returned to the ice early ahead of the second but quick penalties to Billy Phillips and Juraj Huska saw them battling a 5-on-3 almost immediately after the restart. The Thunder made the powerplay work to their advantage – the energetic Jamie Line finding Jamie Randall all alone in the right circle and Randall thumping home with a one-timer off the underside of the bar to give the visitors the 1-0 lead at 22.57. Tempers then flared briefly soon after as Billy Phillips chased down a long clearance up the ice to enter a foot race with Damien King who was advancing from his net in the other direction. King won the battle to fire the puck to safety but Phillips was unable to change his path and charged straight into the oncoming netminder to send him sprawling. Thomas Castle quickly stepped in to voice his opinions to Phillips but retreated swiftly on finding Phillips a willing combatant. When the action restarted Anthony Leone would have levelled the tie but for a point blank stop from King who thwarted his redirect right in front before the Mos finally had their answer at 30.58. Frankie Harvey won a faceoff in the final third before finding Callum Fowler in the high slot and, though he failed to make the connection he was after, the puck still found the 5-hole to make it all square at 1-1. Fowler then came close to a go-ahead goal but, having skipped across the crease, he found the pipes and not the net leaving the game level with 40 minutes played.
In the final period the Dynamos were still short of their best with lack of numbers and tired bodies still playing their part alongside a highly organised performance from the visiting Thunder. As time threatened to turn against them they seemed more and more determined to do it the hard way – opting for moments of individual brilliance over the fluid passing that normally features in their play. Nevertheless they struck gold at 49.15 – Adam McNicoll seizing possession to the left of the target and forcing high over the shoulder of Damien King at the second attempt to the delight of the home support. Callum Fowler then almost made it 3-1 moments later as he danced through the Milton Keynes rear guard to go in on goal but shot stopper King was back to his stubborn best and held him at bay. With the minutes ticking down the Thunder then called a timeout late on but they were never in a position to pull their netminder in the dying moments leaving the Dynamos to celebrate a narrow 2-1 victory when the final buzzer eventually came.
So it was a win for the Mos all be it one that lacked finesse but in the course of the season it is sometimes necessary to win ugly and the hosts ticked that box on Sunday. Visiting Milton Keynes were vastly improved on the side that was easily dispatched in 2013/14 whilst the Dynamos will simply be happy to have claimed the points – 2 from this clash seeing them complete a 4 point weekend. Man of the match honours went to the outstanding Damien King of the Thunder whilst match winner Adam McNicoll secured the honours for the hosts.