The Invicta Dynamos will head into their second final of the season after a 6-4 home win on Sunday secured a 9-5 aggregate victory against the Milton Keynes Thunder in the NIHL Southern Playoffs Semi-final.
With a 3-1 edge secured on the road the night before, the Mos were already in the driving seat but they strengthened their cause with a strike in less than a minute – Juraj Huska collecting Andy Smith’s drop pass and roofing in off of the crossbar from the back of the left circle for 1-0. At just 03.31 they then threatened to run away with the tie – Smith finding Callum Fowler right in front and the forward committing netminder Damien King before teeing up Huska for the guaranteed goal just left of the target. 2-0 down, 5-1 on aggregate, the Thunder had to muster a reply to keep their hopes alive and they lit the lamp at 11.22 to maintain their interest – Harrison Goode’s pass from the left deflecting and import Piotr Poziomkowski first to read the puck’s new direction as he drove in beyond Mark McGill from the right circle to cut into the deficit. However any comeback hopes were dented before the break – Peter Beerling launching the play to the crease where captain Anthony Leone battled for possession and fired home to end a goalmouth scramble at 18.23. Leone’s strike marked his 300th appearance for the side and provided the Mos a 3-1 edge on the night – a 6-2 advantage on aggregate.
With a comfortable lead and the pressure on the visitors to push the play, the second period saw a scrappy start with both sides guilty of coughing up possession in a neutral zone free-for-all. In fact it took until 31.32 for the scoreboard to be altered again – Piotr Poziomkowski sending Jamie Line in on the breakaway and the Milton Keynes captain lashing high into the top right corner before netminder Mark McGill could react to make it 3-2. However, just 14 seconds later the Mos cut short their celebrations – a Billy Phillips drive from the blue line palmed down by Damien King but only into the path of Callum Fowler who quickly converted from close left for his first of the night. He would not be waiting long for his second – 34.38 the moment when a swing and a miss from Jamie Randall allowed Andy Smith to skate right by him before a pass to the back post where the on-rushing Fowler struck for 5-2. To their credit though the Thunder continued to battle on and they mustered a reply at 37.37 – Nidal Phillips scoring a special strike as he claimed the puck on his own goal line and sped down the left channel before driving towards net and roofing over the shoulder of Mark McGill from close left.
With the score at 5-3 on the night, 8-4 on aggregate, the Mos were 20 minutes from another shot at silverware and they all but sealed their place with sixth goal at 48.26. Juraj Huska mishit his shot from close left but the puck found its way to Adam McNicoll on the back of the left circle and his wrist effort slipped through the pads of Damien King for 6-3. In a relatively calm encounter tempers then threatened to flare soon after – Grant Baxter’s hit sending Mathias Rugholm cartwheeling to the ice but the Dynamos man was clearly unhappy with his opponent’s reaction as he leant over the grounded Dane to share his views. Baxter received a tripping minor whilst an attempted intervention by Jack Lee saw him pick up a misconduct. On the resulting powerplay Milton Keynes tallied the last of the night – Jamie Line driving at net from back on the blue line and Thomas Castle tipping the puck up over the grasp of Mark McGill right in front for 6-4 at 48.26 – 9-5 on aggregate.
So it was victories in both legs for the Dynamos who, despite the score being relatively close on the night, looked comfortable throughout and always capable of securing their playoff final berth. Man of the match honours went to veteran Simon Howard of battling Milton Keynes who have plenty to be proud of after a much improved campaign whilst four assists saw Andy Smith take the accolade for the Mos who were now a week away from a final meeting with the Wightlink Raiders.