Spring Cup: Telford 3 Raiders 2

Raiders forward Erik Piatak in action against Telford Tigers last season

Raiders forward Erik Piatak in action against Telford Tigers last season - Credit: John Scott

Everyone Active Raiders were edged out by defending National League champions Telford in their opening match of the Spring Cup competition, held behind closed doors on Saturday.

Having not played for close to a year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Raiders handed debuts to Zach Sullivan, Harry Gulliver, Glenn Billing and Ben Solder, as captain Aaron Connolly made his 100th appearance in a gold and blue jersey.

And following a minutes silence, the action got underway with Ash Calvert having the first shot of the night for the hosts.

Connolly was called for interference in the fourth minute, handing Tigers a powerplay, and Billing had a shorthanded chance for the visitors, but Brad Day made the save.

A hooking penalty against Connolly handed the hosts a second man advantage in the seventh minute, with veteran Jonathan Weaver sending a long hard shot wide of the mark.

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But Raiders were then given a powerplay chance of their own as Scott McKenzie was called for holding in the 11th minute, only for a bench minor penalty for having too many men on the ice a minute later to leave the sides skating 4-on-4.

And Tigers, once back to full strength, made their extra man count as Cole Shudra opened the scoring at 13:38.

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Ethan James denied Joe Aston a second after a quick break, before Kieran Brown was binned for slashing to hand Raiders another powerplay chance.

But they could not convert as Shudra's goal remained the difference between the two sides at the first break, although Raiders began the middle session on the powerplay after Brown was given a penalty for kneeing at the 20-minute mark.

Telford's penalty-killers did their job once more after the restart, with Day denying a good shot from Juraj Huska, and it was 2-0 at 23:45 as David Clements fired home from the blue line.

James made a good save from Calvert soon after, with both sides then picking up minor penalties in the 27th minute and a cross-checking call against Daniel Rose giving Raiders a 4-on-3 powerplay chance.

And they opened their account 45 seconds into their man advantage as former Romford junior Gulliver claimed his first goal as a Raider with an impressive finish at 28:36, assisted by Erik Piatak and Dan Scott.

The joy was shortlived, though, as Telford restored their two-goal lead just 32 seconds later through Brown, before Jack Watkins was called for tripping just past the game's midway point.

A Sullivan shot came to nothing on the powerplay, while Watkins fired wide for Telford before JJ Pitchley and Brandon Ayliffe also had chances for Raiders, to no avail.

But Raiders went back on the powerplay when Aston was assessed an interference penalty with five minutes remaining in the period, with captain Connolly forcing Day into a block after being set up by Piatak.

Day denied two other Raiders shots from the point, with 39-year-old Slovakian Huska also kept out as the home side survived, before Ayliffe called the Tigers goalie into action again.

James made a stick save on Calvert at the other end of the rink, before Billing and Ayliffe attacked dangerously and Ross Connolly fired wide from the blue line.

And James thwarted Watkins late in the period, before Scott's shot on a Raiders powerplay was saved by Day, after Mitchell-King was called for hooking.

Further penalties followed to both sides at the start of the final stanza, with Jacob Ranson having a shot from the left wing for Raiders before Telford lost Mitchell-King to a 5+game penalty for boarding.

And although Day denied Ayliffe during the major powerplay, Raiders cut the gap to one soon after the penalty expired through Billing, with an assist to Ross Connolly.

A holding penalty against Plant handed Raiders another powerplay chance, with Piatak firing just wide, but James had to make a good save from Brown's wristshot at the other end after Telford returned to five skaters.

Jake Sylvester had a right-wing shot blocked by Day with less than four minutes to play and, despite pulling James for an extra skater in the final minute, Raiders could not get back on level terms.

The two side meet again at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre in Romford on Sunday (5pm).

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