Ice hockey: Raiders 6 Bracknell 5
PUBLISHED: 19:45 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 19:43 26 January 2020
Everyone Active Raiders claimed two vital points in the fight for a National League play-off place by beating Bracknell on Saturday.
They rallied from 4-2 down to sting the Bees in the race for eighth place, as Brandon Ayliffe and Aaron Connolly finished with two goals apiece.
Ayliffe just failed to connect with an Olegs Lascenko pass at the far post, while Aidan Doughty fired wide for Bees before Lukas Sladkovsky hit the crossbar with a backhand attempt in close.
JJ Pitchley's wristshot was held by Danny Milton to bring the first stoppage after 5.27 of play and Lascenko was denied at close range after a great Erik Piatak pass, before Callum Wells had a slapshot saved.
Ethan James held on to Roman Malinik's shot at the other end of the rink before Ollie Baldock was called for tripping.
But Raiders survived the shorthanded spell and Jake Sylvester had a backhand saved at close range from Piatak's pass.
Brendan Baird was then binned for a cross-checking penalty on Aaron Connolly, who hit the mask of Milton during the power play.
Blaho Novak and Jacob Ranson were then denied by a Milton double save, after James had made a couple of smart stops to thwart the Bees, and Ayliffe had a hard-struck effort saved for the hosts.
James thwarted Malinik at the far post and held onto a close-range effort from the Bracknell import, after he cut in from the left wing late in the opening period.
Raiders saw Pitchley and Baldock test Milton soon after the restart, but then a hit by James Galazzi on Pitchley angered Jack Flynn, who tried to get the Bracknell player to drop his gloves, but only ended up with 12 minutes in penalties of his own.
Bees broke the deadlock just 17 seconds into the power play as Callum Robertson tipped in Edward Knaggs shot, but Ethan James then held on to Luke Jackson's wristshot and Raiders levelled when Pitchley played a nice drop pass into the path of Sylvester, who stepped in and finished well.
Piatak was left on his knees in the next passage of play, but the officials made no call after a conference, and James denied Dominik Gabaj with the next chance.
Raiders took the lead in the 29th minute, though, when Baldock let fly from the right point and looked as surprised as anyone when the puck found the far top corner of the net.
And after James robbed Doughty with a superb pad save, Raiders might have gone 3-1 up when Ayliffe countered and centred from the right and Sean Barry lifted the puck over the crossbar.
Milton denied Sladkovsky, before Bees drew level as Ryan Webb stepped in from the left wing and found the top corner.
And Raiders went back on the penalty kill when Dan Fuller was called for trippinng, with James holding onto Malinik's angled shot.
The visitors took the lead soon after the penalty expired, though, as Baird's shot from the right point squeezed through James and, after Milton held onto Sylvester's slapshot, Gabaj made it 4-2 with a low, angled drive from the left wing.
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Three goals in four and a half minutes had put Bees in the driving seat, but Raiders replied before the break as Callum Wells sent a wristshot goalwards from the blue line and Milton gave up a juicy rebound for Ayliffe to smash the loose puck home and set up an intriguing final session.
Ayliffe was called for high sticks with barely a minute gone in the third period, but James saved from Malinik's blue line attempts and Zack Milton at close range, ending up underneath a pile of bodies.
And Raiders were back on terms as Ayliffe returned from the box, raced onto a pass from Piatak and netted at the second time of asking.
Then, just five seconds later, Connolly sent a shot in from the left wing which found the far top corner of Milton's net, turning the match on its head once more.
Lascenko was then called for holding Josh Martin, who was binned for slashing and picked up a double minor for fighting, along with Pitchley.
That left the two sides skating 4-on-4 and Sladkovsky's hard wristshot caught the shoulder of Milton, before Sylvester thumped a shot against the post from Baldock's pass.
But Baldock was then called for interference after knocking away a loose Bracknell stick, putting the hosts on the penalty kill once more.
And James produced a blocker save to deny Gabaj, before Zack Milton rang the metalwork from between the hashmarks.
Raiders survived, then good work from Ayliffe set up Sylvester, whose sharp-angled effort was held by Milton, who also got something on Pitchley's tip on the next shift.
Gabaj had the puck in the home net, despite great backchecking by Ayliffe, but the goal was washed out by a slashing call against the Bees import.
And Raiders went 6-4 up on the power play as captain Connolly showed persistence inbetween the face-off circles to hack the puck past Milton with just over eight minutes to play.
Bees hit back with a superb shot from Gabaj, who fired in off the far post from wide on the right, but James denied Doughty as Raiders scrambled in their own zone.
And James robbed Webb on the doorstep from Galazzi's pass, before Pitchley forced Milton into action once more and Harvey Stead had a shot blockered away by the young Raiders goalie.
Novak drilled a shot wide from Sladkovsky's set-up, but Gabaj countered and had a backhand held by James as the clock ticked down inside three minutes.
And after Bees pulled Milton for the extra skater, Ayliffe saw a backhand attempt from mid ice drift just wide, but Raiders held on for a vital victory ahead of Sunday's trip to MK Lightning.
Raiders: Aaron Connolly 2, Brandon Ayliffe 2, Jake Sylvester 1+2, Ollie Baldock 1+1, Erik Piatak* 0+4, JJ Pitchley 0+2, Jacob Ranson 0+1, Callum Wells 0+1.
Bees: Dominik Gabaj* 2, Brendon Baird 1+2, Callum Robertson 1+1, Ryan Webb 1, Ed Knaggs 0+2, Harvey Stead 0+1, Josh Martin 0+1, Roman Malinik* 0+1, Zack Milton 0+1,
Penalty minutes: Raiders 26 Bees 12.
Shots on goal: Ethan James (R) 8-16-13=37-5, Danny Milton (B) 10-12-16=38-6.