ROMFORD, UK – Romford Raiders lifted their first major trophy of the season as they overcame rivals Chelmsford Chieftains in the NIHL Cup final.
It was sweet revenge for the Raiders, who had lost out on the league title race to Chelmsford just a couple of weeks earlier. The NIHL Cup is the third major trophy awarded over the season, and with Wightlink Raiders capturing the South East Trophy in January, Romford seized the opportunity to make sure they lifted some silverware ahead of the Play-Off quarter finals this weekend.
“We were really happy to win this cup especially after our poor defence of the South East Trophy earlier in the season” said Raiders forward AJ Smith.
“This made up for that somewhat and obviously the timing of the win right before we begin the Play-Offs is huge too. All the lads are buzzing now and you really couldn’t have a better momentum before starting a Play-Off campaign than being fresh from a Cup win the previous weekend”
The Cup was not only a chance to lift a trophy but also a good way to send off the Raiders Rom Valley Way home which is soon to be demolished.
“I feel like the two legs of the final avenged the humiliating 8-1 home loss we suffered to Chelmsford a few weeks ago” admitted Smith, who has been in good form again this season.
“We were fired up all week at training and there were so many reasons we had to win.”
“It was a cup final for starters, the first leg was the last ever time that Romford would play Chelmsford at RVW which was also a huge deal for us, after 25 years of rivalry in that building it couldn’t end on a loss for us”
“Obviously then there was that huge defeat we had just a few weeks prior that was fresh in everyone’s head that we needed revenge for. You can’t really ask for more incentive to win a game than all of that”
Romford qualified for the final edging out Smith’s former team Invicta Dynamos in the group stages. A convincing 8-3 first leg win over Chelmsford on the Saturday evening was effectively enough to see the Raiders over the line despite a 5-4 loss at the Riverside on the Sunday. The 12-8 aggregate win saw the Raiders and their fans celebrate a trophy on the ice of their deadly rivals much to the satisfaction of anyone of a blue and gold persuasion.
“I think the difference over two legs this time, as well as revenge, was heart” explained Smith.
“Chelmsford are a very quick, very skilful and a very disciplined team. But we are equally quick and skilful but we play with heart and we play for each other and when we can channel that properly and not let it boil over into chaos like it does sometimes then there’s no way we were going to lose this weekend”
“We like to stay on our feet too if we can help it. That’s my opinion anyway, however if you read some hockey forums online you’ll know that none of what I just said is true and that we only won because all the Chelmsford lads had flu”
So with Romford, Wightlink and Chelmsford all amongst the honours already this season, the only question remains is which will win the Play-Offs. The three clubs are hot favourites for the crown but fans of Invicta, Streatham, Milton Keynes and Bracknell may have something to say about that.
Talking of which, Smith reserved special praise for the Raiders fans who cheered on their team over the weekend.
“Our fans were brilliant this weekend” he said.
“Especially the amount of noise they made on Sunday at Riverside was incredible. We all appreciate it on the ice and we want to thank them for their support as it does make a difference”
Romford are in action this weekend with a two legged Play-Off quarter final against Bracknell Hornets. Smith and the Raiders fans will be hoping that the winning ways continue for a few weeks to come.
Romford Raiders NIHL Cup winners 2012/13
Shane Kemp, David Oliver, Julian Smith, Billy Phillips, Ryan Giles, Shaun Wallis, Jason Buckman, Andrius Kaminskas, Shaun Yardley, Danny Marshall, Frankie Harvey, Matt Turner, AJ Smith, Tom Davis, JJ McGrath, Grant Taylor, Juraj Huska