With the league done and dusted for another season, and another week until the play offs start, all NIHL S1 eyes were on the 2 legged Cup Final which sees league champions Chieftains take on Invicta Dynamos again. Whilst dominant in the league, Chieftains were far from their best in the group stage of the cup at the start of the season, only managing to beat Streatham. And with Dynamos coming into the tie as one of only two teams to win at Riverside this season, and the only team to have done it twice. The 'Mos have been filling social media all week with the #ourtime in an attempt to rally their support and the scene was all set for a classic matchup.
The first of the six periods of the tie started with Chieftains being penned into their own zone, with Dynamos cycling the puck like it was a powerplay. But It was Chieftains who got the break when Huska and Baldock set up Jake Sylvester for the opening goal at 2:40 to hush the vocal Dynamos crowd. However, it took just 51 seconds for Invicta to reply as Ondrej Zosiak, skating down the wing unchecked as the Chelmsford defence backed off, fired a heavy shot on Ben Clements and Steve Osman made no mistake hammering the puck into the empty net as the Chieftains stopper was unable to recover. With some solid end to end hockey from both teams, it was only a matter of time until the next goal was scored, it was just a question of who was going to score it. The answer was given at 12:17 when Zosiak, with help from Tom Ralph, sent Osman on his way once again, this time firing from the faceoff circle beating Clements stick side, much to the delight of the so called "Dynamos Wall Bangers". The period ending with a slender 2-1 lead in favour of the visitors, this one could still go either way.
Chieftains came out for the 2nd period all guns blazing with Danny Hammond setting up defenceman Sean Barry for a rare goal to tie the game at 2 just over a minute into the period. Just over three minutes later and Huska assisted by Cameron Bartlett restored the home teams lead. Cameron Bartlett had aspirations of a goal of his own and went skating in to the Dynamos zone, only for Tom Ralph to hold him up and impede his progress, resulting in a holding penalty, while referee (and far from fans favourite) Blaine Evans adjudged Bartlett to have exaggerated the hold and called him for a dive leaving the teams to play 4 on 4. Less than a minute into the penalties, Huska scored his second of the night, this time combining with Liam Chong. Their fans quietened, Invicta decided to turn up their physical game, finishing checks heavily, finishing some checks maybe a little later than they should have. Whether this was an attempt to goad the Chieftains into taking retaliatory penalties or not, only their coach will know. But for the most part, the home players just walked away - a game plan that has seen other teams infuriated even more. The period ending 4-2 in favour of the Chieftains, Invicta had some work to do in the third.
The Chieftains may have come out all guns blazing in the second, but it was the 'Mos turn in the third. Once again controlling the play in the Chelmsford zone, it was the visitors who looked most likely to score the next goal, and everybody in Riverside knew that would be crucial. And with Invicta carrying on where they left off with the heavy hits, it looked increasingly likely that some fisticuffs would eventually result. The next goal came at 44:39, Callum Wells in the penalty box sitting out a holding call, Dynamos Captain Callum Fowler made the man advantage pay, with assists going to Rehak and Strawson, much to the delight of the travelling fans. With just under 8 minutes of the game remaining, the expected, and inevitable, happened. Huska, skating into the Dynamos zone was checked hard by Harrison Lillis, to which the Slovakian forward took offence, and levelled Lillis with one punch, earning both players a sit in the box for roughing minors. However, among the ensuing mêlée, Liam Chong, who appeared to have fallen onto Lillis as he went down, was judged to have been third man in, earning himself a game misconduct. And after having had words for most of the period, Carl Graham and Mason Webster finally dropped the gloves. Webster getting the take down as Graham took a nasty cut to the forehead, resulting in the Zamboni being called out to clear the blood from the ice. Graham later posted a photo on social media from Broomfield Hospital showing his repair wound and stating that "I could see the blood squirting from my head during the fight but I had to keep going". And for their bout, both players were given 2+2 for fighting. In the minutes that remained, neither team could gain the upper hand, with both sides going close but nobody being able to find a way past either goalie. With the final horn signalling the halfway point of this two legged tie, with the score finely poised at 4-3, Dynamos may be down but they're certainly not out. This was a great spectacle of ice hockey, all action, heavy hitting and end to end and just what a cup final should be. On Sunday night, and it across the Dartford Crossing into Kent for the 2nd leg. With Chieftains taking the narrowest of leads from Riverside on Saturday, the thrilling spectacle of ice hockey was all set to continue. And with the score poised at 4-3, in favour of Chieftains, everybody in a packed Silver Blades knew that the first goal would be crucial. As the puck dropped on the first period, both teams carried on where they left of the night before, playing good, flowing, end to end hockey. Referee Stephenson didn't take long to stamp his authority on the game, calling Lillis for a trip in the first 5 minutes. Chieftains set up the Powerplay in the Invicta zone, but alas nobody could find a way past Damien King. A big hit in the corner by Grant Bartlett saw the Chieftain forward sitting a minor penalty for boarding and the Dynamos set up camp in front of Sonny Phillips. They too were left frustrated as the young Chieftains nettie closed the door on every shot. The fans from both teams were making themselves heard as they tried to egg on the teams to find a breakthrough. They were made to wait until 16:09 before the deadlock was broken, the goal going to Invicta as Nick Lewis tucked away a juicy rebound from Grutridge's initial shot. 1-0 to the Dynamos, which tied the match at four apiece on aggregate. With less than two and a half minutes left on the period, Cameron Bartlett found himself in trouble for a hook that happened right in front of the referee, and with 41 seconds remaining, Sean Barry joined him in the naughty box for slashing. Unable to convert on the 5 on 3 powerplay, the period ended 1-0 in favour of the home side.
Chieftains started the second period with 1:19 of Sean Barry's penalty left to kill. It seemed an easy job, however, as Invicta could barely get set up in the Chieftains zone. Just over six minutes into the period, 'Mos import Adam Rehak hit Callum Wells hard behind the play at the back of Phillips goal. Taking exception to this, Wells wanted to have a little chat with him. Cue Invicta tough guy Mason Webster who stepped in and the pair of them dropped the gloves. A short game of handbag throwing ensued during which Wells got in some good punches and quickly took Webster to the ice. The fight bagged both Wells and Webster 2+2+2 for roughing, with Wells also getting and extra 2 minutes for a slash on Rehak before the melee, putting the face off to the right of Phillips' goal. Just 9 seconds after the restart, a defensive error by the Dynamos powerplay unit saw the puck fall nicely on the blade of Huska's skate, who was then allowed to skate at King and made no mistake burying the puck for a short handed marker, tying the game and giving Chieftains the go ahead goal in the tie. 3 minutes later, with Harrison Lillis in the penalty box again, this time for holding, Jake Sylvester slotted home a powerplay goal with assists from Huska and Danny Hammond, the period ending with Chieftains leading 2-1 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate.
The third period started with Invicta knowing they had to somehow get themselves back into the game with an early goal, and they were playing like they meant it too. However, the Dynamos Wall Bangers were silenced at 43:55 when Grant Bartlett skated down the left wing at speed and centred the puck to a waiting Brandon Ayliffe, who had an easy slot in with King well out of position. 3-1 on the night, 7-4 on aggregate, many thought that was the game. But three minutes later, with Matt Turner for Chieftains sitting out a tripping penalty, Nick Lewis again picked up a rebound slotting the puck past Phillips' right skate for a powerplay goal. The Invicta fans were alive again as they could feel their team get back in it. Mid way through the third period, the teams changed ends because of lighting issues at the aging Silver Blades rink, and just after the restart penalties were called on Ondrej Zosiak for the 'Mos and Sonny Phillips for Chieftains, both for slashing. Although both teams came close, neither could manage that finishing touch on the 4 on 4. With 1:05 remaining in the game, and a face off coming deep in the Chieftains zone, a time out was called. When the teams came back for the restart, Invicta goalie Damien King remained on the bench, in favour of an extra attacker. Chieftains got the puck and shot down the ice. The puck bounced off the right post. Invicta retrieved the puck and attacked again. Chieftains regained control and shot the puck down the ice and missed the goal. Icing called. Chieftains again took control of the puck and shot down the ice again. The puck bounced off the left post. This time, however, Grant Bartlett chased the puck down the ice and sent the rebound across the line to finish off the Dynamos. With the Barmy Army leaving the building, all that was left was for Chieftains to celebrate a 4-2 win on the night and an 8-5 victory in the Cup Final, lifting their second piece of silverware of the season. That secures the double for the City’s Ice Men, now it’s time for the exciting End of Season Play-offs. Knock-out hockey starting this weekend. Chieftains face Bracknell Hornets at Bracknell on Saturday before the Hornets travel to Riverside on Sunday. Face-off Sunday is at 6.30pm and Chieftains will be once again running the “Kids for a Quid” promotion. Doors open at 5pm….support the City’s Champions in their quest for the treble!