Ice Hockey: Raiders 6 Swindon Wildcats 4

PUBLISHED: 20:01 16 December 2018

Aaron Connolly lets fly against Swindon (pic Kev Lamb)

Aaron Connolly lets fly against Swindon (pic Kev Lamb)

Everyone Active Raiders extended their winning streak in National League Division One to five matches after a tense and tetchy contest with the Wildcats.

Matt Turner in action against Swindon (pic Kev Lamb)Matt Turner in action against Swindon (pic Kev Lamb)

Having skated to a 5-2 win over the then leaders at the Link Centre eight days earlier, Raiders welcomed Liam Chong and Callum Wells back into their line-up, but were without Slovakian import Juraj Huska.

And they made a bright start, with Ashley Jackson seeing a shot deflected wide in the opening seconds.

Barely two minutes had been played when the home side opened the scoring as JJ Pitchley combined with Chong, who fed the puck back for Filip Sedivy to fire past Renny Marr.

But Raiders lost Julian Smith to an interference minor soon after and, although they survived the shorthanded spell, they came under growing pressure from the Wildcats.

Blaho Novak in action against Raiders (pic Kev Lamb)Blaho Novak in action against Raiders (pic Kev Lamb)

The visitors levelled when Floyd Taylor skated out from behind Michael Gray’s net to fire across him and inside the far post in the 12th minute.

And Swindon then took the lead 56 seconds later as Max Birbraer was allowed to skate into the zone and wired a shot past Gray.

The hosts were given a power play chance of their own when Chris Jones was called for tripping Blaho Novak in the corner, as Raiders tried to rediscover some of their early-game tempo.

But they could not set up any kind of chance as Swindon killed the penalty comfortably.

Liam Chong in action against Swindon (pic Kev Lamb)Liam Chong in action against Swindon (pic Kev Lamb)

Tempers boiled over in the closing seconds, though, and Swindon’s Sam Bullas was handed a 5+game penalty for slashing, giving Raiders a major power play with which to start the middle session.

The home side struggled to make their extra man count in the opening minutes as both sides tried to come to terms with some particularly sticky patches of ice.

But Novak saw one effort deflected just wide and had two other chances, before John Connolly clashed with Birbraer.

Raiders were back on terms in the 27th minute, though, when Chong’s shot from the right was stopped by Marr and Jake Sylvester volleyed the dropping puck into the net, showing great hand-eye co-ordination.

Raiders goalie Michael Gray (pic John Scott)Raiders goalie Michael Gray (pic John Scott)

Jackson was called for tripping a minute later to hand Swindon a power play chance and Aaron Nell rang a shot off the crossbar seconds into the man advantage.

Then Chong was called for boarding, receiving a 2+10 penalty and giving Wildcats 42 seconds of 5-on-3, but Scott, Aaron Connolly and Julian Smith survived that short spell and Raiders held on for the rest of Swindon’s power play.

The visitors were back in front with just under six minutes left in the period, though, after winning possession in mid ice and moving the puck to the left wing for Floyd Taylor to send a wristshot past Gray.

Wells and Nell clashed in front of Gray’s net towards the end of the session to earn minor penalties for roughing and high-sticking respectively, as tempers began to boil.

And Raiders were back on terms during the 4-on-4 as John Connolly sent Ollie Baldock away on the left and, when Sylvester’s shot was blocked by Marr, Baldock whipped home the rebound.

Swindon lost Birbraer to a 2+10 boarding penalty for a hit on Jackson with 16 seconds left and the teams exchanged words as the buzzer sounded once again, setting up an intriguing final period, after Novak was given a match penalty for roughing.

Raiders survived, despite plenty of Swindon pressure, but then fell 4-3 down when Sam Jones skated up the left wing, cut inside and beat Gray in the 47th minute.

A tripping call against Loris Taylor handed the home side a power play with 10 minutes remaining and they took it as Jackson sent a wristshot from the bottom of the right face-off circle through Marr’s skates.

John Connolly was binned for roughing, after wrestling Birbraer to the ice in front of the home bench, but Raiders survived again before Baldock and Sedivy clashed with Neil Liddiard and Jan Kostal on halfway, with all four earning minor penalties.

The tension was rising and Raiders took a 5-4 lead with just over two minutes left on the clock when Pitchley won the puck on the left boards, skated inside and fired into the top right corner of Marr’s net.

Swindon pulled Marr for an extra skater after a timeout and pinned Raiders back into their own zone, but Gray would not be beaten again – making 49 saves in another superb display between the pipes.

And after Chong almost won a footrace to the empty net, Brandon Ayliffe lifted a loose puck from inside his own blue line and into the net to cap a memorable victory.

Scorers, Raiders; JJ Pitchley 1+1, Jake Sylvester 1+1, Filip Sedivy* 1, Ollie Baldock 1, Brandon Ayliffe 1, Ashley Jackson 1, Liam Chong 0+2, Sean Barry 0+1, Aaron Connolly 0+1.

Swindon: Floyd Taylor 2, Max Birbraer* 1, Sam Jones 1, Sam Godfrey 0+2, Tyler Plews 0+2, Adam Harding 0+1, Aaron Nell 0+1, Loris Taylor 0+1.

Shots on goal: Michael Gray (R) 17-13-23=53-4, Renny Marr (S, 58.11) 9-12-6=27-5 Empty net (1.49) 1-1.

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