National League: London Raiders 3 MK Thunder 2 (after pens)
PUBLISHED: 20:23 05 November 2017
London Raiders completed a four-point weekend in the National League with a penalty-shot win over Milton Keynes at Lee Valley.
Buoyed by their 6-3 win at previously unbeaten Peterborough on Saturday, Raiders saw Marek Nahlik net their winner after an exciting final period and overtime session.
Michael Gray returned in goal, after Euan King’s heroics the night before, and denied Grant McPherson at close range in the opening stages, before Andy Munroe and John Connolly both tested Tom Annetts with slapshots at the other end.
A roughing minor against the returning Julian Smith gave the visitors the first power play of the night, but it was soon cut short as Gareth O’Flaherty was binned for tripping to thwart a Raiders breakaway.
Annetts denied Olegs Lascenko as the Smith penalty expired, while O’Flaherty raced on to a pass from Ryan Handisides and smashed a shot goalwards as the first period ended goalless.
And O’Flaherty pounced on a poor pass at the start of the second session to race up ice and fire in a shot, which was saved by Gray and cleared by the hosts.
Connor Goode was the next to test Gray, who was quick to palm away his shot from a face-off. And Thunder were then given another power play chance when Alan Lack was binned for a big hit on Tom Mboya.
But despite some nice set-up play, the visitors saw Ross Bowers spurn a good chance as he mistimed an attempted shot.
Raiders then broke the deadlock as Nahlik’s shot from the blue line was blocked and Matt Turner reacted quickest to turn in the rebound.
And Connolly and Rupert Quiney were both sent to the penalty box after clashing in front of Gray’s net, while Rio Grinell-Parke was called for slashing to give Raiders 98 seconds with a man advantage.
But Thunder had most of the possession while shorthanded, denying Raiders the chance to set up any attempts at Annetts, before Juraj Huska was banished on a minor penalty.
And Gray had to be alert to smother a deflected shot from Greg Randall, while Bowers fizzed a wristshot just wide after swapping passes with Jamie Line on the power play.
Hallden Barnes-Garner was also denied by Gray, before Nahlik won the puck back after losing it and skated into the zone but saw Annetts keep out his attempt.
And Raiders made a strong start to the final stanza, building pressure on the Thunder net and keeping them away from Gray for several minutes.
However, Thunder levelled with only their second shot of the period through former Raiders forward Grinnell-Parke, then took the lead soon after as Ross Green found the net, forcing home coach Sean Easton to call a timeout.
Annetts produced a stunning save to deny Brandon Ayliffe at the far post from Huska’s pass, but Raiders were back on terms with 10 minutes remaining thanks to a superb finish from JJ Pitchley at close range.
And the hosts were given a power play chance with six minutes left after Line was called for high sticks after catching Ayliffe.
But after a sustained spell of pressure on the Thunder net, Raiders saw Bowers break away to get off a shot of his own that was saved by Gray. And Line then returned to the action to race on to the puck and force another stop from the Raiders goalie.
McPherson sent a long-range shot straight at Gray as the match drew to a close, while Lascenko was thwarted by Annetts after circling in on the Thunder net and Huska’s angled drive was also saved in the final seconds.
Raiders were on top at the start of the 3-on-3 overtime period, but Annetts held firm to keep out three good chances.
And the Thunder goalie also produced an impressive double save from Pitchley, who then tangled with Quiney, before Gray pulled off a big save to keep out McPherson at point-blank range.
Ollie Baldock skated the length of the ice to test Annetts as the overtime period wound down and the two sides were forced into a penalty shoot-out.
Huska and McPherson missed the first two shots, before Turner found the net for Raiders and Bowers did likewise for Thunder.
Nahlik then netted for Raiders with a lovely finish, before Grinell-Parke failed to find a way past Gray.