Late sting for Raiders
PUBLISHED: 08:56 15 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:20 15 February 2015
National League: London Raiders 3 Bracknell 4
Play-off chasing London Raiders let the chance of more National League points slip through their fingers at Lee Valley last night.
Despite a below-par performance, they held a slender lead against the Hornets after two periods, only to see the visitors come from behind in the final session to claim victory on Valentine’s Day.
Daniel Hughes settled the issue with less than five minutes remaining and, despite pulling goalie Chris Douglas for an extra skater in the final minute, Raiders could not get back on terms.
The home side killed off an early hooking penalty against Phil Manny, but fell behind with barely six minutes played when former Raider JJ Pitchley forced the puck past Douglas at close range.
Douglas denied Josh Smith on a breakaway, before Bracknell lost Josh Tetlow to a hooking call themselves.
And Raiders drew level on the powerplay as Liam Chong teed up Jakub Kostelansky for a rocket of a shot into the top corner of David Wride’s net.
A cross-checking penalty against Alan Lack was safely negotiated before the break as the scoreline remained even, despite Bracknell dominating the shot count 11-6.
And Raiders, having taken seven points from a possible 10 in their last five matches, looked a bit brighter in the second period.
Jacob Ranson reacted angrily to a challenge from Josh Martin in the 29th minute, with both players receiving roughing minors.
And Raiders edged in front during the spell of 4-on-4 as David Oliver worked hard to win the puck in a corner and Lack teed up Grant Taylor in the low slot to whip the puck past Wride.
The home side’s joy was shortlived, though, as Hughes played Pitchley in on the left wing and he skated in on Douglas before slipping the puck home for his second goal of the night just 35 seconds later.
But Pitchley was then penalised for holding an opponent’s stick and returned to the penalty box after a clash with Raiders captain Tom Davis, with little love clearly lost between the pair.
The visitors ended up on a powerplay as Davis received an extra two minutes for roughing for being the aggressor, but Raiders survived and, even better, regained the lead right on the buzzer.
There were only three seconds on the clock as the two sides lined up for a face-off in the Bracknell zone.
But that was just enough time for the lively Liam Chong to win possession for Kostelansky to fire goalwards, where man of the match Lack tipped the puck into the net.
Bracknell were unhappy that the goal was allowed to stand, but it looked to be the right call by referees Phil O’Neill and Rene Ross, although the scoresheet shows it was scored at 39.59 and there was not a face-off to restart as the two sides headed back to their locker-rooms.
But Raiders, missing import defenceman Vaclav Drabek in the final period due to a broken skate, could not capitalise on an early hooking call against Luke Reynolds in the final session, as their powerplay unit continued to struggle, and they came within an inch of going 4-2 up when Kostelansky rang the post with a wristshot.
It proved decisive as Stephen Deacon coughed up the puck close to his own net soon after and Hughes lifted it into the top corner on the backhand.
And Raiders were punished again late on when losing possession in their own end as Bracknell man of the match Pitchley found the unmarked Hughes to fire a first-time shot past Douglas.
Raiders remain in the eighth and final play-off place with a four-poinnt cushion over rivals Oxford, who lost at home to Invicta but have a game in hand.
But they face difficult trips to the Isle of Wight and Invicta over the next three weekends, before returning to Lee Valley to host Solent on March 15.
Raiders: Lack 1+2 Kostelansky* 1+1 Taylor 1+1 Chong 0+1 Oliver 0+1.
Hornets: Pitchley 2+2 Hughes 2+1 Smith 0+3 Martin 0+1.
Shots on goal: Douglas (Raiders, 59.29) 34 Wride (Hornets) 23.
Penalty minutes: Raiders 12 Hornets 12.
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