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ICE HOCKEY: Chieftains victorious in play-off final
11:47am Wednesday 23rd April 2014 in Sport
CHELMSFORD Chieftains finished their 2013/14 season in style by beating the Wightlink Raiders 6-3 over two legs in the NIHL Division 1 South play-off final.
This completes a memorable quadruple grand slam-winning season for the Chieftains.
On Saturday, the Isle of Wight was invaded by a large army of Chieftains fans.
A full-strength Chieftains took the game to their opponents and the deadlock was broken with 9:30 on the clock. Clarke’s rebounded shot fell straight into the path of Luke Brittle. He shot the puck past Matt Colclough into the roof of the net, 1-0 Chieftains.
Two minutes later and the Chieftains advantage was doubled. Czech forward Daniel Volrab’s pass found John Connolly and his close range shot went straight through Colclough's pads over the red line.
The Raider’s opened their account at 13:50 a powerplay goal from Alex Barker beating Euan King for the first time. With 20 seconds remaining Chieftains took advantage of another powerplay. Matt Turner on beat Colclough's outstretched leg, 3-1 Chieftains at the end of the first.
Wightlink came out fighting in the second and just 4 minutes after the restart they were back within one, Matt Vazzari the goalscorer.
With less than two minutes remaining Barker scored his second of the night to make it 3-3 and set the following day's 2nd leg up nicely for a classic encounter between the league’s top two clubs.
A large crowd of more than 1,000 hockey fans crammed into Riverside to witness what should be an enthralling season finale.
The first period was scoreless, although Chieftains pressed the Raiders defence. Home fans’ nerves were eased when the Chieftains scored two minutes into the period Ranby finishing in style.
Four minutes later a pass from Chieftain’s defenceman Alex Green found James Ayling free on the left wing. As the Raiders defence closed in Ross Brears skated down the centre unmarked.
Ayling’s perfectly placed pass was met by Brears who gave Colclough no chance. 2-0 at the end of the 2nd period and Chieftains were on the way.
Could the Raider’s rescue the game in the final 20 minutes? At 43:07 that question was answered. Brittle’s pass found Turner and his low shot sailed over the goal line to light the goal light.
With still over 15 minutes remaining, Wightlink looked resigned to the fact they would once again be runners-up. Ben Clements in the Chieftains’ net had to pull off a few smart saves in the final minutes, but his shut-out remained intact and as the clock hit zero, the celebrations began.
After the presentation they paraded the newly presented play-off trophy along with the League Championship, League Cup and South East Trophy to their adoring fans.
The retiring player/coach Gary Clarke left the ice under a tunnel of hockey sticks, a guard of honour prepared by his appreciative squad of talented players.
Celebrations lasted long into the night as both players and fans celebrated the most successful season in the club’s 26 year history.
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