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Home boy Pitchley relishing chance to spend peak years playing at Sapphire Centre

PUBLISHED: 12:30 09 February 2018

JJ Pitchley attacks for Raiders (pic John Scott)

JJ Pitchley attacks for Raiders (pic John Scott)

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JJ Pitchley spent his formative years playing junior hockey in the old Romford ice rink on Rom Valley Way – and he plans on spending ‘the next 10 or 12 years’ of his career calling Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre home.

JJ Pitchley and dad Ben (pic John Scott) JJ Pitchley and dad Ben (pic John Scott)

Pitchley helped the Everyone Active Raiders to a 5-2 win over Cardiff as the new rink opened its doors for the first time at the weekend, less than a week after celebrating his 24th birthday.

And the son of former Romford Raiders defenceman Ben was struggling to explain how it felt to be playing in the town once again, having had a good chance to score the team’s first goal in their new building in the first period.

He said: “I can’t even find the words to describe how good it was. For me being a Romford player through and through, to be back playing in Romford is how it should be.

“We should never not have had a rink, but now we’ve got one it’s good to be back.

“The atmosphere was as I remember it. We’ve been skating here for two-and-a-half weeks now, with it being a closed building and just the staff walking about checking and doing the last little bits.

“I had a couple of chances, but the end result is what mattered. From a personal point of view yes it would have been nice to get the first goal, but I’m glad I was the first one on the ice when we got to train here first.”

Olegs Lascenko opened Raiders’ account, cancelling out Cardiff’s opener, but the hosts were 2-1 down early in the final period, before turning things around.

Pitchley added; “Hats off to Olegs, he played well, the boys pulled through and that’s all that matters. We’ll take two points and a win any night.

“I wouldn’t say things got particularly ahead of us, but going down 2-1 is never ideal, certainly against a team you’re higher than in the standings.

“But you start playing with some new guys, you’ve got to start finding some chemistry that may be there and like the result showed, the outcome was there.”

Having enjoyed a happy ending on opening night, Pitchley is now looking to make lots more memories, adding: “Hats off to Havering Council, Wilmott Dixon and everyone who has made this happen. It’s a first-class, top-class facility that we’ve got here.

“I’m enjoying the next 10 or 12 years of my career and this is probably where it will end, so it’s nice to have somewhere that’s close to home now!”

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