Cooper delighted with super London Raiders weekend
PUBLISHED: 12:30 28 March 2017
Defenceman hails team's focus against play-off rivals Oxford
London Raiders defenceman Jack Cooper was delighted to see his side keep their focus and eased past Oxford in the National League play-offs at the weekend.
Raiders made a slow start to the first leg at Lee Valley on Saturday, but having fought back from three goals behind in a recent league meeting with the Stars, they did not let a two-goal deficit rattle them and reeled off four unanswered goals for a morale-boosting win.
Cooper said: “We always expected a tough weekend as they are a hard-working team and they came out fast on Saturday and took a 2-0 lead.
“But we kept our heads up, knowing we had time to get those two goals back just like when we came back a few weeks ago in Oxford.
“We stuck together as a unit and helped each other on every shift to get a win at home.”
JJ Pitchley claimed a natural hat-trick in the win, with Marek Nahlik also on target, and Raiders carried that momentum into the return leg in the university city on Sunday.
Slovakian import Nahlik claimed a treble this time, with Pitchley scoring twice more and experienced defencemen Andy Munroe and Stewart Tait also finding the target in a superb 7-1 triumph.
Cooper added: “Going into Sunday’s game we knew we still had a battle on our hands. Oxford packed their barn out again and the fans try to get in your head all the time, but we kept our focus and sticked to our game plan.
“It was probably the best we’ve played in a first period this season, we looked solid as a team.
“After a couple of goals it looked like Oxford didn’t really want to know so we carried on playing our game and before you know it we had a 10-goal cushion.”
The only downside of the night was a late consolation goal for Oxford’s Dominic Hopkins and Cooper revealed his disappointment at seeing Euan King’s hopes of a clean sheet shattered.
“I was gutted that we made a tiny mistake and let them score a goal so close to the end,” he said.
“We would have loved to see ‘Kinger’ get the shutout as he played solid on the weekend and deserved it.”
Nonetheless, Raiders were able to return to the capital in buoyant mood after their 11-3 aggregate triumph and will now look to cause an upset against league champions and cup winner Chelmsford in the semi-finals, with the ‘Gold & Blue Army’ right behind them.
Cooper said: ”The fans on the weekend were brilliant, they kept us going with all the cheering and gave us the momentum we needed to advance in the play-offs.
“I know they will do the same this weekend against the Chieftains.”