LONDON, UK – The Play-Offs begin and for four teams the summer was only two games away.
London Raiders have had a difficult season so a fourth place finish in the league was a solid return for the team formerly known as Romford.
“We had to beat Solent to finish fourth and at the start of the season I said I’d be happy with fourth place” said Player Coach Danny Marshall in an interview with the Romford Recorder.
“Obviously I go out every year to win it but we knew at the start it was going to be hard so I’m pretty happy with what we’ve achieved in the league”
“All of the boys can be proud of the efforts, waking up on Monday morning with nothing left in the tank and then come to training midweek and doing it all over again at the weekend, it’s been going on for a while now and they have my full appreciation for it”
A raft of injuries and suspensions had left the Raiders playing the latter half of the season with a short bench, with Marshall unable or unwilling to add to the ranks.
Down in Kent, Invicta Dynamos Coach Kevin Parrish was looking to start afresh and have one last crack at a trophy this season. The Mo’s supremo was boosted by the news that starting stopper and Pro Hockey News goalie of the season Chris Douglas would be fit for the weekend.
“We have to play to our potential for 120 minutes. If we do, we move to the next round” said Parrish in an interview with Kent Sports News.
“However, we can’t take this Cardiff team lightly.”
In Streatham there was anticipation of a London derby with London Raiders in the Play-Off Quarter final. The Redskins had fallen to an aggregate loss against Chelmsford in the NIHL Cup final the previous weekend, but Streatham Captain Joe Johnston was in upbeat mood.
“We are definitely improving & this is a club people want to be at now and I think us making the cup final is a warning shot to the rest of the league about the future of Streatham” said Johnston in his Captains Log.
“We are on our way to being real contenders. It will not be an instant thing of course, it will take years but we have plans and infrastructure in place to bring the glory days back to South London”
Social media is a growing area of marketing for many NIHL clubs therefore it was only a matter of time before two official Twitter accounts went head to head.
It all began with the Cardiff Devils Twitter account comparing their retweets to Invicta’s and then the Mo’s Twitter handle biting back.
The two teams continued the conversation until Streatham’s handle piped up with a gag and then it all died a death, talk about a mood killer!
Streatham Redskins and London Raiders had a mass brawl last time the two sides faced each other at Streatham Arena so it was perhaps not the best sign when the same referee was allocated for the Play-Off game between the two.
A spirited and backs to the wall display by the short-benched Raiders saw them deservedly leading 2-1 at the end of the second period and looking as if they were about to possibly take a lead into the second leg.
All this was undone after some ugly scenes at the end of the second period that caused the game to be abandoned.
The EIHA then released the following statement:
“Following initial investigation of events that took place at Streatham last night and the implications thereof it is now confirmed that the second leg play-off match scheduled for Lee Valley ice rink tonight is cancelled. It is also confirmed that London Raiders are now excluded from the NIHLS1 play-offs so Streatham Redskins will go forward to the semi-finals next weekend where they will meet either Chelmsford Chieftains or Solent & Gosport Devils”
“A full investigation of the incident will take place but in the meantime all EIHA registered players identified as being involved have been suspended indefinitely. There are many factors and accusations to be covered by the investigation which means that the final disciplinary decisions relating to various individual players may be issued at different times. As decisions are made they will initially be notified to the relevant club and then be released to the public domain”
“The EIHA will release further clarification on this initial decision in due course”
Wightlink Raiders eased past Bracknell Hornets with a 7-1 win on the island.
Nathan Taylor and Corey Watkins grabbed a brace each with Richard Facey, Steven Osman and Matthew Vizzari all on target with one goal apiece.
Luke Reynolds got the consolation for the Hornets against his old team.
In Cardiff, Invicta put on a solid road display with an impressive 6-2 win in the Big Blue Tent.
Andy Smith top scored for the Mo’s with two goals, with Danny Hammond, Callum Fowler, Chris Cooke and Juraj Huska also getting one goal each. Jason Stone and Ross Wilkinson were on target for Cardiff.
The final Play-Off game of Saturday night took place at Gosport Ice Arena where the Solent & Gosport Devils pushed Chelmsford Chieftains all the way, before going down 2-0 in the end.
It was a gutsy effort from the Devils however Luke Brittle and Daniel Volrab were on target to give the Chieftains a cushion going into the return leg.
Chico Cole had another impressive night between the pipes however it was his opposite number Euan King who continued his excellent record of shut outs this season.
Invicta advanced past Cardiff with a convincing 10-3 victory over the Welsh side in Kent.
Anthony Leone hit an impressive hat trick for the Mo’s, Juraj Huska and Andy Smith got two goals each and there were lone goals from Danny Hammond, Callum Fowler and Arran Strawson.
It set up an interesting semi-final match-up between the Dynamos and Wightlink Raiders, as the island side finished the job on Bracknell at the Hive.
The Raiders sealed their passage thanks to a 3-1 win in an ill-tempered game between the two.
Alex Barker scored two goals for the Raiders with Steven Osman also on target. Bracknell’s goal came from Matt Ovenden.
Jeremy Cornish and Richard Wojciack dropped the gloves to give the larger than usual crowd at the Hive something else to talk about.
In Chelmsford, the stubborn resistance of Solent & Gosport Devils was finally broken as they went down 10-1 to a rampant Chieftains side.
Daniel Volrab scored a hat trick for Chelmsford, Cameron Bartlett scored two and there were loan goals for Matt Turner, Darren Brown, Matt Turner and Ross Brears.
Ralfs Circenis was the lone scorer for the Devils.
In NIHL 2 Oxford City Stars sealed an important 4-3 win over Slough NIHL Jets at Oxpens Road in from of a sell-out crowd.
It now raises further questions as to whether the Stars will take promotion should they win the league, with rumours of Slough’s EPL team dropping down, it could make for an interesting summer.
Before all of that, there are the Play-Off semi-finals to look forward to next weekend as Streatham take on Chelmsford and Invicta face Wightlink Raiders.
Saturday 5th April 2014
Streatham Redskins 1-2 London Raiders (game abandoned after two periods)
Solent & Gosport Devils 0-2 Chelmsford Chieftains
Cardiff Devils 2-6 Invicta Dynamos
Wightlink Raiders 8-1 Bracknell Hornets
Sunday 6th April 2014
Chelmsford Chieftains 10-1 Solent & Gosport Devils (Chelmsford advance to semis)
Invicta Dynamos 10-3 Cardiff Devils (Invicta advance to semis)
Bracknell Hornets 1-3 Wightlink Raiders (Wightlink advance to semis)
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