The Invicta Dynamos head into the NIHL Southern Cup Final 2nd leg with the narrowest of deficits to overcome after restricting the Chelmsford Chieftains to a 4-3 victory in the 1st leg at the Riverside on Saturday.
The Mos travelled to Essex minus Taylor, Haydn and Bailey Wootton, Adam McNicoll and the unavailable Ashley Jackson whilst Damien King was given the nod ahead of John Dibble in the net. The Chieftains were short of Darren Brown and Daniel Wright and placed Ben Clements between the posts.
On their own ice Chelmsford were determined to start strongly and they had the lead as early as 02.40 – Liam Chong finding Jake Sylvester somehow unguarded between the faceoff circles and the forward finished expertly beyond Damien King for the 1-0 lead. Far from rattled though the Mos immediately restored parity – Ondrej Zosiak’s mazy skate taking him the length of the ice and, whilst Ben Clements blocked his close range effort, Steve Osman was on hand to turn in the rebound at the back post at 03.31. Pegged back, the Chieftains looked for another go-ahead goal but King stopped Daniel Hammond from close left whilst Brandon Ayliffe fired over the bar from the right channel. At 12.17 a piece of magic from Osman then gave the away side the lead arguably against the run of play – the forward picked out by Zosiak before beating his man out wide and firing under Clements for 2-1. The strike galvanised the visitors who then finished the frame the stronger team – Adam Rehak drawing a pad save from Clements from the left circle before driving onto the crossbar in the dying seconds.
Having seen their lead not just cancelled out but overturned in the opening period the Chieftains were determined to respond and found a new gear in the second leaving the Mos chasing the game. At 21.04 Sean Barry skated the length of the rink down the right channel, tricked his way to the near post and fired into the twine off the arm of Damien King to level the tie at 2-2. The goal saw momentum quickly shift to the hosts and come 24.38 they had added another – Juraj Huska coming out from behind the net, skating across the crease and firing low through the legs of King for a 3-2 lead. The Slovak was a constant thorn in the period and, whilst a quick double save from the Mos goalie initially stopped him adding to his team’s advantage, he converted again at 28.54 to make it 4-2. This time the Dynamos defence were backing away from the import as he flew into the offensive zone allowing him the space to pick his spot and tuck under King’s pads for a two goal cushion. By now it was backs to the wall for the Mos and a brave dive from Ondrej Zosiak prevented them falling further behind as he blocked the puck when Anthony Leone looked certain to score. In a rare attack Callum Fowler found Steve Osman at the back post but, on a hat-trick, the forward was unable to control and convert with Ben Clements struggling to make it across his crease. The Chieftains would counter quickly with a long pass setting Grant Bartlett clear but King was on hand to deny his shot to the top corner and keep the deficit at 4-2 after two.
After a difficult middle frame the Dynamos rallied in the last and they were back on the scoreboard at 44.39 as Callum Wells sat a holding penalty. Following a period of pressure on the Chelmsford net Adam Rehak forced in at the right post with the Chieftains wanting the strike washed out for man in the crease but referee Blaine Evans waved off their protests to make the score 4-3. Scott Bailey – a constant source of energy and flair throughout the night – then came close to an equaliser as he beat his man and fired at net but Ben Clements steered the puck wide with his pads. With tensions inevitably on the rise they finally reaching boiling point at 52.17 – Harrison Lillis and Juraj Huska exchanging shoves behind the play before the Slovak caught the defenceman with a gloved punch just as he had looked away knocking him to the floor. Liam Chong also raced in to tackle the man resulting in a game penalty for 3rd man in with both Lillis and Huska received roughing minors. Whilst the officials discussed the penalties Mason Webster and Carl Graham squared off and ditched the gloves – Webster hammering his opponent with a number of hefty blows that not only floored him but gave him a cut to the head and put him out of the remainder of the tie whilst giving rink maintenance a cleaning job. When the action finally restarted the Chieftains went looking for another goal to take into the second leg and Oliver Baldock came closest – the forward getting clear and firing into the chest of Damien King before turning the rebound the wrong side of the upright. Neither team could add to their tallies however leaving the tie perfectly poised with the Essex side 4-3 up ahead of the second leg.
So it was defeat but a 1st leg result that many would have taken ahead of an expected bumper crowd in Gillingham the following night. The Mos looked on the ropes for spells in the second frame but fought back hard to leave the Riverside with only the narrowest of deficits to overcome in game two.
Written by Paul Bennett.