The Invicta Dynamos kept their title dreams alive as they came from behind to overturn a 6-4 deficit at 47 minutes to win 8-6 on the road in Essex against the Chelmsford Chieftains in the NIHL South Division 1.
Both teams came into the tie in a rich vein of form – the Mos putting together a run of 7 straight wins before the Christmas break and Chelmsford still unbeaten in the league. The Chieftains would be without import defenceman Lukas Zatopek whilst the Dynamos were full strength but for the absence of Taylor Wootton. Damien King and Ben Clements started in the nets.
The opening period belonged to Chelmsford with the Mos looking every bit a side that was returning to action after a lengthy festive period break. At 05.33 the Dynamos back line sat deep on top of goalie Damien King who was then left unsighted as Juraj Huska slotted inside the left post from between the circles for 1-0. Matt Turner then fired over when he had time and space in the slot whilst King had to be alert to prevent Grant Bartlett doubling the lead on the breakaway. Huska again came close when Jake Sylvester’s drop pass put him in possession between the circles but the Slovak missed the target, whilst Turner really should have converted from right in front but he too sent the puck wide of the frame. Down the other end Ashley Jackson tested Ben Clements before the buzzer sounded – the Mos perhaps fortunate to be trailing by just one going into the break.
The Dynamos began the second frame on the powerplay with Brandon Ayliffe in the box for interference and, when Sean Barry joined him for delay of the game, the visitors were 5-on-3. They made the advantage count at 20.29 – Adam Rehak feeding Callum Fowler close left and the captain drilled home with a one-timer for 1-1. Immediately after Alex Staples then sat for high sticks for another spell with the two man edge and the Mos notched their second at 21.51 – Arran Strawson found in space left of the target and the D-man looked every bit a forward as he stick shifted to commit Ben Clements and flicked high into the net on the backhand. The Mos were looking much improved but the Chieftains pegged them back at 29.50 thanks to a solo strike from Juraj Huska – the Slovak stick handling his way in from the left wing beyond three before forcing past Damien King for 2-2. At 33.31 the visitors restored their lead – Ashley Jackson’s effort from wide left clipping the pads of Clements and slipping over the line. However Chelmsford fought back strongly and two before the buzzer meant they left the period just as they had entered it – one goal ahead. At 35.40 Grant Bartlett’s pass from the left boards found Daniel Hammond close left and he flicked high inside the far post to restore parity. A holding penalty to Elliott Dewey then gave the Chieftains a powerplay and this time the Bartlett brothers combined – Cameron Bartlett teeing up his twin Grant Bartlett in the slot who fired in at 39.29 for the 4-3 lead.
In the final period Callum Wells went to the box for roughing and at 42.18 the Dynamos made it 4-4 – Callum Fowler’s pass finding Arran Strawson on the left wing and his thumping one-timer slapshot went flying over Ben Clements to level the tie again. The visitor’s time on a level footing would be short-lived though – at 43.14 Juraj Huska picked out Jake Sylvester in the right circle and he dispatched beyond Damien King for 5-4. A sloppy line change from the Mos then gifted the hosts another powerplay after a penalty for too many men and the game looked to be running away from the visitors when Chelmsford made the extra man count at 46.41 – Huska the architect as he breezed down the left channel before a pass to the back post where Matt Turner simply could not miss. At 47.56 the night took a further turn for the worse when netminder Damien King withdrew from the action with a re-occurrence of his injury but James Richardson took his place between the posts having recently returned from time out himself. Richardson then prevented Cameron Bartlett giving the Chieftains a three goal edge before the Mos started an unlikely revival at 52.14 – Mason Webster finding Adam Rehak right in front and the import forcing beyond Clements to cut the deficit to one. The comeback could have been quashed five minutes from time but fortune smiled on the Dynamos as Brandon Ayliffe’s effort from close left found the crossbar and not the net meaning it was level pegging when Callum Fowler notched his second of the night at 56.25. Great stick work from the captain saw him beat his man out wide before a low shot inside the far post that made it 6-6. At 57.11 the away fans were then delirious – the puck dropping to Mason Webster close right and the forward driving beyond Clements for a 7-6 lead and sparking celebrations that saw the whole line of Mos players end up on the ice. Now staring a first league defeat in the face the hosts had little choice but to pull their netminder but their fate was sealed at 59.30 – the puck dropping to Ashley Jackson on the halfway line and the Olympian keeping his cool and dispatching into the empty net from distance to seal a remarkable 8-6 victory.
So game one of a double header weekend against Chelmsford ended in a hard fought win for the Mos that saw the gap between the teams at the top drop to just three ahead of the second encounter on Sunday. Despite trailing by two with just 13 minutes to go the Dynamos tallied four without reply to secure the points and stun the Riverside. Man of the match awards went to Juraj Huska of the hosts and Arran Strawson of the visitors.
Written by Paul Bennett.