The Invicta Dynamos will top the NIHL South Division 1 at Christmas after a home debut double from new import Michal Oravec, alongside goals from Adam McNicoll, Steve Osman, Harrison Lillis and Callum Fowler, led the team to an invaluable 6-2 win over league rivals the Chelmsford Chieftains in front of a bumper crowd in Gillingham.
Of all the games to be without the suspended Billy Phillips, Charlie Phillips and Andy Smith, as well as the ever determined Brad Gutridge, fans of the Dynamos may have feared the worst as current champions and the so far unbeaten Chelmsford Chieftains arrived in Gillingham on Sunday. The hosts would have their numbers bolstered by the signings of former Streatham import Michal Oravec, young netminder Aaron Craft and field hockey star Ashley Jackson, but the task at hand remained formidable with the Essex outfit looking to reclaim the league’s top spot. After an even start it was the Mos who would draw first blood – Jackson’s pass to the crease poked away by goalie Euan King but only to Callum Fowler who immediately fired low inside the far post from the slot at 06.36. That 1-0 edge then came under threat when Harrison Lillis sat for hooking – Darren Brown and Daniel Hammond escaping on a 2-v-1 but Mark Lee darting across his crease at speed and denying a back post shot with the pads on his outstretched leg. This allowed the Dynamos to stay in front and they then added to their advantage at 15.32 – Frankie Harvey’s pass splitting Cameron Bartlett and Sean Barry to put Michal Oravec in the clear and the Slovak jinking left onto his backhand before roofing high over King for 2-0. It was a lead that kept the home fans happy at the break after a period in which the Mos had been solid at the back and incisive up front.
In the second frame Harrison Lillis again found his way to the penalty box by way of a holding minor but this time his misdemeanour would prove costly – a freak deflection off of Juraj Huska on Darren Brown’s attempted dump into the final third steering the puck through the legs of Mark Lee for a bizarre Chelmsford goal. Despite losing Sean Barry for holding, the Chieftains were then level at 29.12 – Brown having just one available pass from back in his own zone but still managing to find it as his play sent Martin Piecha in all alone and the Czech skater successfully lead Lee a merry dance before rifling home for 2-2. With the game now hanging in the balance tempers began to flare and it would come to a head at 35.26 – Anthony Leone’s high hit sending Cameron Bartlett flying resulting in an elbow from Sean Barry in response. Barry’s reply was immediately followed by retribution from Arran Strawson in the form of a crosscheck – action that referee David Cloutman would determine to be checking from behind resulting in a penalty of 5+game. A clearly angered Strawson wanted words with Bartlett and the ever antagonistic Chelmsford skater then secured a misconduct of his own via unsportsmanlike conduct – the officials not taking kindly to his gesture of blowing goodbye kisses in a heated situation. When the action restarted the Mos were on the wrong side of a five minute powerplay but they defended their zone defiantly with Chelmsford unable to overcome their stubborn resistance. In fact, at 39.44 the Dynamos added a shorthanded third to lead 3-2 – clumsy control from Lukas Zatopek allowing Michal Oravec to steal the play on his own blue line before racing clear, selling the netminder a deke and slotting in low right for his second of the night.
Having overcome the loss of their two goal lead and then a major penalty in the second, the Mos had shown great spirit to get back in front and they carried that into the final frame as they added to their tally at 44.29. Callum Fowler countered down the right whilst teammate Ashley Jackson drew both defenceman in the slot allowing Adam McNicoll the back post finish high over Euan King to make it 4-2. The hosts then continued to have the better of the chances – a great through pass by Michal Oravec sending Fowler in on the breakaway but the forward unable to convert this time around. A fifth did come at 52.30 however – the puck bouncing off of the netminder and back towards the blue line where the on-rushing Harrison Lillis lined it up before thumping a one-timer into the twine off of the right post for the three goal cushion. By now the Mos were in command but they further cemented their lead at 59.56 – from behind the net Callum Fowler finding Steve Osman on the edge of the crease and the Dynamos number 83 diverting just inside the upright to complete the 6-2 victory.
So it was a mammoth victory for the home side who needed the two points to prevent their league challenge becoming fruitless as they head towards 2015. Despite the lack of several key skaters and the late introduction of several more, the Mos were a ruthless unit providing perhaps their best defensive display of the season so far and combining it with the firepower that now has them at the summit of the NIHL South Division 1. Man of the match honours went to two goal breakaway hero Michal Oravec of the Dynamos whilst Ross Brears took the beers for Chelmsford.