Ice hockey: Raiders 3 Bracknell 5
PUBLISHED: 20:01 14 March 2020 | UPDATED: 20:01 14 March 2020
Everyone Active Raiders suffered a disappointing home defeat against Bracknell in the fight for a National League play-off place.
The Bees netted four power play goals at Romford's Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre to end the six-game winning run of the Raiders, cutting the gap between the two sides to a single point with three games to play.
Raiders head to champions-elect Telford on Sunday, while Bees visit Sheffield, and if the regular season is to be completed in spite of the coronavirus outbreak, which seems unlikely judging by the end of game thank yous played out over the rink PA, Raiders will visit Leeds and host Swindon, while Bracknell face fierce rivals Basingstoke home and away.
JJ Pitchley forced Adam Goss into the first save of the game from between the circles, but Bees took an early lead when the hosts struggled to clear their zone and Ryan Webb found the dangerous Dominik Gabaj, who showed neat hands to beat Ethan James.
Jack Flynn and Zack Milton were binned soon after following a clash in front of the visiting bench, while Brendan Baird was left on the ice following a solid hit from Lukas Sladkovsky.
Dan Fuller's shot from the left point was spilled by Goss, but the Bees goalie smothered the loose puck as Jake Sylvester and Mason Webster lurked.
And Callum Wells saw one blast blocked, with another hitting the post seconds later as Raiders enjoyed a good spell of pressure.
Webster was then called for charging on Josh Martin, right in front of the Bees bench, with both players receiving double minors for fighting, giving the visitors a power play chance midway through the first period.
James held onto a wrist shot from Ed Knaggs, then gloved another effort from the Bees defenceman from the top of the right face-off circle.
And Roman Malinik's hopeful wristshot from the blue line was safely pouched by the young Raiders goalie, before Aidan Doughty deflected another shot wide.
But, with the Webster penalty almost over, Malinik fired home from a tight angle, with the aid of a slight deflection and James partially unsighted, to double Bracknell's lead.
Goss held on to a Dan Scott shot as Raiders looked to respond, but Bees countered and Malinik fired into the glove hand of James from Doughty's drop pass.
James also denied Josh Smith, before Raiders saw Brandon Ayliffe and Erik Piatak test Goss, who produced a fine glove save on Sladkovsky at the other end.
But Raiders went on the power play towards the end of the period when Knaggs was called for cross-checking Blaho Novak and they made it count as Scott found Piatak at the top of the left face-off circle and he picked out Sylvester with a cross-ice pass to centre for Ayliffe to sweep home.
Ollie Baldock was called for hooking and cross-checking with 31 seconds left in the session, though, to leave Raiders shorthanded for four minutes either side of the first interval.
Gabaj had to leave the ice before the buzzer, with a suspected dislocated shoulder, and was not seen on the visiting bench after the restart, as Milton had a shot saved by James.
But Bees went 3-1 up as Harvey Stead's deflected shot found a way through despite claims of a high stick being used to leave Raiders with work to do.
Sylvester went close to a reply, with Goss getting something on the shot and seeing the puck trickle loose but clear of danger, before Smith was called for hooking to hand the hosts another power play chance.
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Sladkovsky saw a shot from the blue line held by Goss, after some good puck possession in the offensive zone, but Aaron Connolly was called for hooking to leave the sides skating 4-on-4 for 42 seconds, before a short Bees power play.
Raiders survived, but missed the chance of a breakaway chance as Novak's pass slid beyond Sladkovsky, who had open ice in front of him.
And Goss denied Webster in close after good work by Olegs Lascenko to set up the chance, before Piatak's tight angle shot from the left was also held by the Bees goalie.
Raiders hit back, though, with a superb solo effort from Connolly, who burst through centre ice, drew a penalty, and then somehow found the net via a Bracknell player with just over six minutes left in the period.
And James Galazzi was then called for cross-checking, handing Raiders a power play chance to get back on terms.
Sladkovsky had a shot saved and Sylvester fired just wide as Raiders kept the pressure on throughout the two minutes, to no avail.
But the hosts lost Wells to a cross-checking minor with two minutes left in the period, with Jack Flynn given a 10-minute misconduct conduct penalty after trying to get Galazzi to engage.
And Bees restored their two-goal lead with a low shot from Malinik, who used a Raiders defenceman as a screen to beat James for the third Bracknell power play effort of the night.
Novak was called for cross-checking as Raiders attacked in the final minute, with James denying Malinik twice in the closing seconds and Doughty at the start of the last period, before the hosts returned to full strength.
But Raiders struggled to make much of an impact going forward as Bees worked hard to pressure the puck carrier, forcing mistakes and turnovers.
Sylvester sent a shot wide and Lascenko forced Goss to make a stick save, before Milton was denied by a glove save from James.
Tommy Huggett did well on a rare shift to break up the right wing and find Jacob Ranson for a shot on net, but time was ticking away for Raiders and a holding call against Brendan Baird gave them a power play chance with just over 10 minutes left in the match.
Sladkovsky's shot was deflected over the glass, following a rink length dash by Baldock, who had a shot of his own kicked out before Sladkovsky's wraparound bid was foiled.
But Novak then tangled with Harvey Stead in front of the Bees bench, after a scramble in front of Goss, and was given an extra slashing minor on top of a double minor for fighting, which would put the visitors on a power play after a brief spell of 4-on-4.
Connolly gave his side hope, though, with a battling effort after Sean Barry had won the puck on the boards, firing home a shot on the turn while dropping to his knees with 8.39 on the clock and James denied Milton and Baird before Huggett returned from serving Novak's slashing minor.
But Piatak was put in the box with five minutes to play on a roughing call and Bees made sure of victory with their fourth power play goal thanks to Josh Ealey-Newman's deflected close-range finish.
Raiders: Aaron Connolly 2, Brandon Ayliffe 1, Jake Sylvester 0+1, Erik Piatak 0+2, Sean Barry 0+1.
Bees: Roman Malinik 2, Dominik Gabaj 1, Harvey Stead 1, Josh Ealey-Newman 1, Ryan Webb 0+2, Will Stead 0+1, Josh Smith 0+1.
Shots on goal: Ethan James (R) 14-12-13=39-5; Adam Goss (B) 16-14-12=42-3.