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Raiders forward Pitchley buzzing for Bees play-off test

PUBLISHED: 16:28 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:28 22 March 2019

JJ Pitchley (centre) celebrates with Raiders team-mates after a goal against Peterborough last weekend (pic John Scott)

JJ Pitchley (centre) celebrates with Raiders team-mates after a goal against Peterborough last weekend (pic John Scott)

Archant

Everyone Active Raiders forward JJ Pitchley says this is the best time of the ice hockey season.

Having ended the National League Division One campaign in fifth place, Raiders face a play-off quarter-final tie with Bracknell Bees this weekend.

The first leg will be played at Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre on Saturday (5.15pm), before a return meeting in Berkshire on Sunday.

And home-grown star Pitchley cannot wait, saying: “In my opinion this is the best time of the season besides opening night.

“Play-off hockey is completely different to the regular season. The buzz is different, the games are more physical and quicker.”

Raiders did not end the regular season in the greatest of form, losing four of their last five matches, including 4-2 at Bracknell last Sunday.

But 25-year-old Pitchley has a good feeling about their chances of progress, adding: “I think as whole we have the tools and potential to go all the way to the end in Coventry.

“We finished strong on Sunday in Bracknell and although we didn’t take the points I believe it was a massive learning curve for us looking forward to this weekend.

“We know how to play against Bracknell and we have done well against them this season. The series has been hard fought and exciting so I expect that to ramp up by 100 this weekend.”

Raiders won two of the six league meetings with their fierce rivals this season, after losing back-to-back challenge matches against the Bees at the start of the season.

But Pitchley feels they can get the better of this weekend’s match-up and is looking forward to playing in front of a noisy home crowd again to set the tone.

He added: “The buzz in the room and on the ice this week is good. Everyone’s flying and having fun.

“We need to play physical on Saturday and force them into mistakes for us to take advantage of. We have to be competitive, hard working and relentless for 120 minutes this weekend.

“I believe we can do it as we have so many times before this season. But now is when it really counts.

“I’m excited to see the rink packed out Saturday and the fans in full voice. The place has been incredible this season and we can’t thank the fans enough for the energy they bring to the rink every game.”

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