|Wightlink Raiders celebrate their Play Off title win.
(Photo by Chris Cornford Photography)
The Wightlink Raiders saw off Bracknell Hornets 11-5 and London Raiders 20-9 at the Quarter and semi final stage . To set up an intriguing Final against League runners up and Cup Champions, the Invicta Dynamos. The Kent based outfit has a potent attack with the likes of Calum Fowler, Andy Smith and imports Juraj Huska and Michael Oravec .
Most would have favoured the Dynamos over the two legs .however Wightlink won the home leg with a narrow 3-2 win. A big crowd was on hand to hear the news of the rinks future and see a last home win. Head coach Jeremy Cornish admitted he wasn't overly confident of success given recent results in the Ice bowl over recent seasons.
It was a nightmare start as Wightlink's Star forward Alex Barker went to check a defence man , who ducked and Barker ended up injuring himself after just 38 seconds. To make matters worse Dynamos Anthony Leone opened the scoring for the home side at 3.36 . So tied on aggregate most thought the momentum would sit with the home side. However with team captain and local man defenceman Damon Larter playing his last ever game before retirement the islanders were in determined fashion .
A spell of penalties to Dynamos with defenceman Dewey and Import Oravec both binned a 5 on 3 powerplay goal from Raiders Watkins got them back in front. Dynamos looked suspect at the back and Wightlink exploited this time and time again on the break . The Cesky, Tribe, Griffiths line causing most of the Dynamos problems . Raiders took a rash of penalties as play became chippy. However the penalty kill was in good effect most of the game.
Raiders extended the lead as a 2 on 1 developed with Owen Grithiths score assisted by Ryan Webb. Invicta's top Brit was increasingly getting frustrated by the tight checking of the Raiders . taking a succession of penalties as frustration with no room and time for his quick hands. The game plan seemed to be get Fowler of his game . Which Raiders agitator Corey Watkins was instrumental in succeeding at doing .
The shoe was on other foot when Dynamos finally scored a Powerlay goal as a Billy Phillips blast from the point got then back in the contest. A close first period ended all square 2-2 (4-5 agg) in favour of Wightlink.
The second period and Raiders Tribe sat in the bin, but Wightlink’s Import Cesky had a shorthanded breakaway spinarama move saved by Dynamos net minder Lee. With 10.41 left in 2nd period Mo's scored to tie it up on the night . Wigjtlink's Cesky like a man processed raced clear yet again to score from a right angle roofing the puck for 3-3 (5-6 agg) .
A bout of fisticuffs from Mo's Oravec and Raiders Hobbis (with the takedown) saw 4 on 4 action. With just 46 seconds left on the period Wightlink's defenceman Carl Graham speculative dump on net was tipped by Webb to go 4-3 up .(7-5 agg lead) with just one period to go.
|Wightlink Raiders owner Geoff Underwood with Chris Randall
(Photo by ...erm... Chris Randall...)
Timeouts followed as Invicta Head coach Kevin Parish pulled net minder Lee with 2.20 left. A battle in neutral zone and the puck ended up in the empty net. Dynamos would score one last goal at the very end to trail 6-4. However Wightlink prevailed amid wild celebrations from the 150 strong away following to win 6-4 (9-6 agg ) and win the 2014/2015 Nihl South 1 Play off Championship .
A great game that was slightly soured at the handshakes as Dynamos frustration got the better of them . Wightlink Raiders Captain Damon Larter and head Coach Jeremy Cornish joy was obvious . After being bridesmaids for far too many seasons than they both want to remember it was a great fitting end and way to cap their season given the uncertainties the club and rink faced this campaign .
Summer will be a sweet one down on the South Coast and the best news is that the Raiders will be back to defend their Play Off title next season!
Report by Chris Randall
Top photo by Chris Cornford Photography
Bottom Photo by Chris Randall