Defenceman Tommy Ralph scored the Invicta Dynamos’ last league goal of 2016/17 as his effort helped the Mos secure a 4-1 victory against the Solent Devils in Gillingham and a result that saw the team pip Streatham to a second placed finish in the NIHL South Division 1.
The Dynamos had 19 players with netminder Damien King making his first start at the SilverBlades since mid-October but with Haydn Wootton, Taylor Wootton, Adam McNicoll and James Richardson missing out. The Devils had 16 players and were looking for a repeat of their 3-2 victory over the Mos just a week before. Christian Cole started between the posts for the visitors.
In the opening frame the Dynamos were dominant and on the scoreboard inside just 38 seconds – Adam Rehak chasing down a seemingly lost cause in the right corner and pulling back to Ashley Jackson in the slot who fired beyond Christian Cole with the first shot of the game. A deflected puck to the face was not enough to put Mason Webster out of the tie and the Mos continued to boss the play – Ondrej Zosiak almost scoring from close right after a coast-to-coast skate and Callum Fowler’s rebound one-timer from wide left expertly gloved by the netminder. Rehak then escaped in behind the Solent defence but he was too close to the goalie for his quick hands to defy Cole who made another important stop. It was against the run of play then when the Devils tallied in the dying minutes to equalise – Matthew Lawday’s shot finding the pads of Damien King but Aidan Doughty on hand to turn in the rebound close left at 18.45 to make it 1-1 at the close of the first.
Having had the better of the opening period but been left with nothing to show for their efforts the Dynamos then stuttered at the start of what was initially a very scrappy second frame. Christian Cole athletically threw himself in front of a Callum Fowler drive to keep the score level whilst, down the other end, Andrew Campbell fired through bodies in the slot but Damien King stood his ground and blocked. A hefty hit from Bailey Wootton on Alex Murray kept the home fans entertained and they had further cause for cheer at 30.22 as the hosts finally retook the lead. With Alexander Cole in the box for slashing Ashley Jackson’s blue line drive was forced in at the right post by Fowler to make it 2-1 on the powerplay. Wootton then saw his involvement in the period at an end as he was given 2+10 for checking from behind but his teammates added another without him – Fowler this time the architect with a mazy skate down the right channel before a centring pass onto the tape of Nicky Lewis between the circles and the Welshman lifted over Cole with one touch for 3-1. It was nearly four before the break as a neat interchange between Adam Rehak and Tommy Ralph ended with the Czech sweeping to the back post but the D-man was unable to convert.
In the final period the Dynamos continued to have the better of the chances with Steve Osman forcing Christian Cole into a pad save and Callum Fowler’s drive to the 5-hole also finding the netminder’s legs. Tommy Ralph was itching to get himself a first SilverBlades goal with two stinging shots from the blue line in quick succession but again Cole kept the hosts at bay. The home side continued knocking and nearly had a fourth but Fowler’s pass to the middle from the left channel was tipped just wide of the far post by the on-rushing Ashley Jackson. Eventually the pressure told at 57.48 – Solent on the wrong end of another penalty as Oliver Denis was sent to the box for holding allowing Ralph the space to beat his man out wide, skate alongside the right boards and drill low inside the far corner of the net for his first home goal with the Dynamos. The defenceman’s strike was arguably the pick of the game and sealed a 4-1 victory come the final buzzer and a second placed finish in the NIHL South Division 1. Meanwhile Solent’s Alex Murray was agitated by the three penalties given against the Devils in the final period and talked himself into a 60th minute misconduct.
So it was a winning end to the league campaign and a result that meant, with the help of Chelmsford overcoming Streatham elsewhere, the Dynamos would finish as runners-up for the 3rd consecutive year. Man of the match awards went to Matthew Lawday of the visitors whilst Elliott Dewey took the spoils for the hosts. Next up for the Mos – the cup final against the league winning Chieftains with the Gillingham side looking to repeat their success in the competition of two years ago.
Written by Paul Bennett.