National League Cup: Invicta 2 London Raiders 3 (OT)
PUBLISHED: 20:12 17 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:12 17 December 2017
London Raiders ended the year on a winning note as they claimed the National League Cup points in Gillingham thanks to an overtime strike from Marek Nahlik, against his former club.
Raiders were already guaranteed second place in their group behind Streatham, having beaten Invicta in their three previous contests, and young goalie Zach Grandy-Smith started between the pipes and palmed away an early slapshot from Harrison Lillis.
Jaroslav Cesky had an effort ruled out, before Nahlik’s tripping penalty gave the hosts a power play chance.
Mason Webster received a 2+10 penalty for checking to the head to leave the two sides with four skaters each, with Callum Fowler missing a good breakaway chance for Dynamos.
Ondrej Zosiak was then denied by Grandy-Smith, while Jake Sylvester saw a wrist shot kept out by John Dibble at the other end of the ice.
Jack Cooper was then called for holding Lillis, giving the home side another power play, and Tom Ralph had a well-struck shot saved by Grandy-Smith.
Sylvester shot wide after seeing Dibble save his first attempt at close range as the scoreline remained blank at the first break.
Dibble denied Juraj Huska early in the middle session, before Invicta opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through Mason Webster, who forced the puck home after Fowler’s shot was saved by Grandy-Smith.
Cesky missed a good chance to double the home side’s advantage soon after, then tangled with Turner as both players headed to the penalty box.
Raiders levelled in the 27th minute through Huska, who fired a trademark slapshot over the shoulder of Dibble for his 227th goal for the club, and the visitors went close to taking the lead when Nahlik skated clear and beat Dibble, only to see the puck hit the inside of both posts and bounce clear.
An unsighted Grandy-Smith kept out Jackson’s low shot as Ollie Baldock served a hooking penalty, while JJ Pitchley tested the glove hand of Dibble with a strong shot and Nahlik saw a low drive kicked wide by the Invicta goalie.
Grandy-Smith denied Ralph and Cesky, who then saw a shot come down off the underside of the crossbar, with referee Evans turning down home claims of a goal.
And Nahlik had the final effort of the period saved by Dibble, before picking up a hooking minor on the buzzer.
Invicta regained the lead on the power play early in the final period as Jackson skated out from behind the net to force the puck past Grandy-Smith from close range.
But Raiders restored parity three minutes later when Huska found Thomas Beesley to force the puck home from close range for his first goal of the season and Grandy-Smith made a pad save to keep out Jackson’s shot on the turn.
Play was held up after referee Evans was hit in the mask, but he was okay to continue with a borrowed piece of equipment and binned Ayliffe and Lillis on roughing minors, before Baldock saw a shot kicked wide by Dibble.
Tempers boiled over in the closing minutes as Callum Burnett tangled with Zosiak, before Brandon Webster joined in, but coincidental penalties left the sides at even strength, until Pitchley was called for slashing with only 74 seconds left on the clock.
Invicta called a timeout to discuss their tactics on the match-ending power play, but shorthanded Raiders took it into overtime, when Grandy-Smith blocked a Jackson shot and covered the loose puck.
And the visitors then claimed victory in somewhat fortunate fashion when Nahlik’s shot from the right wing cannoned into the pads of Dibble and rebounded into the net off Invicta defenceman Ralph.
Victory will enable Raiders to enjoy their Christmas break, before they return to action with a league match at Cardiff on January 6.