A hat-trick from Callum Fowler, a brace from man of the match Billy Phillips and goals from Andy Smith, Anthony Leone and Juraj Huska guided the Dynamos into the playoff semi-finals by securing a narrow 8-7 win over the Solent Devils on Sunday.
Having returned to Gillingham with a hard earned 3-3 draw from the first leg the night before, the Dynamos knew a victory of any kind would extend their season another week and they made the perfect start by lighting the lamp at 05.47. Anthony Leone forced his way beyond Shaun Rudkin on the blue line to bear down on the target and rifled high over the shoulder of Sam Calder to make it 1-0. A quick glove save from Mark McGill then prevented Alex Murray from equalising before a tripping minor to Alexander Cole gifted the hosts a powerplay and their second strike of the night. At 09.54 Juraj Huska’s backhand pass from the left circle found Callum Fowler at the back stick and the lethal forward did the rest to double his side’s advantage. The Mos would then add another swiftly to assert their control – Huska again the architect as he skipped around Montgomery Gailer wide left before a centring pass allowed Andy Smith the close range finish from right in front at 12.10. Smith’s effort prompted the Devils to call a timeout and they briefly rallied to take advantage of a late Invicta penalty – Mark McGill blocking a long range slapshot from Alexander Cole but unable to find his feet before George Norcliffe fired the rebound over his head to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 18.03. However the opening frame belonged to the Dynamos and they responded instantly – Juraj Huska rounding the back of the net before a backhand sweep through the 5-hole of Sam Calder from close right at 18.21 to make it 4-1.
Having coasted through the first period with consummate ease, the Mos were perhaps guilty of taking their foot off the pedal at the start of the second as Solent quickly tallied to trail by just a pair. At 20.31 Andrew Campbell skipped by the check of Callum Fowler and entered the final third unchallenged before dispatching a slapshot into the bottom right corner from the high slot for 4-2. The hosts would respond at 28.17 though – Fowler jinking in from the right boards and rifling just under the crossbar from between the faceoff circles for the 5-2 edge. It was a lead that could have been extended when Michal Oravec found himself clear of the defence but the Slovak failed to find a way beyond Sam Calder for a four goal cushion. However, when Andrew Campbell put the puck over the glass to receive a delay of the game minor, the hosts did find a sixth at 37.43. Calder initially did well to prevent Callum Fowler and Andy Smith in a goalmouth scramble but was then powerless to deny Billy Phillips driving in a slapshot from deep when the puck broke to him in the right circle. 6-2 down the Devils nearly replied instantly but the far post thwarted Michael Gorman before Solent did add a third at 39.50 – sloppy defending from the Mos allowing Andrew Campbell not one but two bites of the cherry right in front and the Canadian making the second count with a shot high over Mark McGill for 6-3.
Leading by three on the night and 9-6 on aggregate the Dynamos were seemingly comfortable but a succession of penalties at the start of the last put them under early pressure. Billy Phillips reacted to an apparent late slash by Alexander Sampford on the glove of Mark McGill whilst Michael Oravec was later penalised for high sticks. On the powerplay the Devils responded – Arran Strawson’s long range pass being cut out by Sampford in the neutral zone who then charged into the final third and drilled high over McGill from the slot for 6-4 at 46.08. Any celebrations were quickly cut short though as the Mos responded with a pair to lead their guests 8-4. The first of the duo came at 48.15 – Callum Fowler speeding down the right flank before sweeping to the back post where an on-rushing Billy Phillips converted for his second of the night. The next followed at 50.29 – Juraj Huska’s wrist shot from between the circles likely to find the left corner but Callum Fowler making sure with a prod home from close range. That should have been that but a combination of Devils determination and sloppy play from the hosts gave Solent a way back into the tie. They cut the lead to 8-5 at 51.18 – Alexander Sampford’s shot from deep right dropped by Mark McGill allowing Andrew Magee the close range finish to gift the visitor’s momentum. Their belief then surged at 52.10 – Mos D-men Elliott Dewey and Billy Phillips becoming entangled on the opponent’s blue line allowing George Norcliffe a breakaway that he finished expertly for 8-6. Late on they then pulled within one – Andrew Campbell picked out right in front and the Canadian converting at the second attempt to ensure a tight finish. However ultimately time was against them and the Dynamos saw out the remaining 17 seconds to secure a semi-final berth.
So it was a far from polished display but just enough from the Mos as they claimed the tie 11-10 on aggregate to set up a date with the Milton Keynes Thunder in the next round. At 8-4 up the hosts should have coasted to victory but aggressive attacking play and individual errors saw them under pressure in the closing moments. Nevertheless they lived to fight another day – man of the match Billy Phillips playing his part whilst hat-trick hero Andrew Campbell impressed for Solent.