LEAGUE champions Chelmsford Chieftains started their play-off campaign with a trip to Gosport the home of the last of the play-off qualifiers, Solent and Gosport Devils.
Awaiting them was the much loathed claustrophobic Devil’s rink with its small ice pad and low roof. Not the ideal place for Chieftains to demonstrate their fast-flowing passing game, but they were odds-on favourites to take the win over the two legs.
Player/coach Gary Clarke and his players adapted to their surroundings early and played a smart game from the first whistle. At 12:34 and on a powerplay Chieftains scored the opening goal, Matt Turner finding Luke Brittle on the back post who in turn found the back of the net, 1-0 Chieftains.
The Devils, who have been improving all season, looked for the equaliser all evening. But the Chieftains’ defence and netminder Euan King shut the door.
With little more than a minute of the game remaining Clarke’s pass found Daniel Volrab and his one timer beat the netminder to give his team a two goal cushion to take back to Essex.
On Sunday, the Chieftains took advantage of the bigger Riverside ice. They pressured the Devils from the off and their dominance was rewarded at 5:03.
The Clarke and Volrab combination linked up as they have on so many occasions this season, Volrab putting the puck high into the roof of the net.
Both Volrab and Clarke were to light the goal lamp before the end of the first period and the Chieftains left the ice 3-0 leaders on the night, 5-0 on aggregate.
As a contest the game was over and further strikes from Volrab, Ross Brears, Darren Brown, Matt Turner (2) Cameron Bartlett and Brittle over next two periods of hockey, secured a semi-final place, Devils’ forward Ralfs Circenis spoilt the evening for Ben Clements in the Chieftains net when he scored at 35:52 on a rare Solent attack. But with a final score of 10-1 on the night, 12-1 over the weekend, the Chieftains play-off dream got off to a great start.
Next weekend it’s the battle of the two tribes, with Streatham Redskins their opponents in a two-legged semi-final. The Chieftains travel to London on the Saturday, with the return at Riverside the following evening (6.30 face-off). Can the Chieftains do the quadruple?