Ice hockey: Raiders, Legends light up Romford
- Credit: Archant
Romford ice hockey fans past and present welcomed back some of the greatest players to have played the sport in the town on a special night at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre.
Gord Jeffrey and coach Troy Walkington jetted in from Canada, Timo Kauhanen and Jani Lehtovaara from Finland and Rob Stewart from Belfast, while others travelled from across the UK to appear for a Legends side against the current Everyone Active Raiders.
The 20 Legends on the roster had played a combined 5,526 games in a Raiders gold and blue jersey down the years, totalling 2,638 goals and 3,469 assists.
But the current squad had just too much young blood for what was basically an old-timers team.
The Legends held out until the 12th minute, when an errant pass from Grant Taylor allowed Jake Sylvester to streak clear and beat Alan Blyth with a nifty finish.
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But they were back on level terms 91 seconds later when Rich Tomalin and Jon Beckett combined for Andrius Kaminskas to fire through the legs of Ben Clements.
Tommy Huggett showed an eye for goal when hacking a loose puck past Blyth in the 15th minute, before Chris Douglas took over in the Legends net and was beaten by Mason Webster on one of many odd-man rushes.
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And new Raiders import Martin Jakubek blasted a fourth past Douglas before the first break, which would have been greatly welcomed by some of the Legends.
Sadly, Shaun McFadyen was unable to reappear – days after celebrating his 50th birthday – due to injury and the Legends lost Kaminskas to a charging penalty within a minute of the restart.
But they netted while shorthanded as all-time leading points scorer Danny Marshall saw a long-range effort parried by Clements and Scott McKenzie pounced to convert the loose puck.
It was a one-goal game in the 25th minute when Marshall won a face-off in the offensive zone and big Tari Suwari helped the puck to Kaminskas, whose blast from the blue line hit the helmet of Clements and spun over the line.
Kaminskas clashed with Mason Webster and Jakubek soon after and referees Joy Johnston and Dave Cloutman had to have a word with the Legends bench.
Raiders moved 5-3 up while shorthanded as Sylvester broke on the right and centred for Matt Turner to finish well at the far post.
But the Legends kept pushing and Jani Lehtovaara unleashed his booming slapshot on a few occasions, while Rob Stewart fired into the stomach of Brad Windebank, after he took over between the pipes from Clements at the midway point.
Gord Jeffrey went close to deflecting a pass from 59-year-old Peter Doig home early in the final period, but Raiders then countered and claimed their sixth goal of the night as Juraj Huska teed up Blaho Novak at the far post.
Turner slid a backhand shot past Douglas on the next shift, with Huggett firing a nice snap shot into the top corner for number eight with just over 14 minutes remaining.
Douglas decided to take it upon himself to try and help the Legends offence, skating the length of the ice and almost teeing up Lentovaara, before dashing back to deny Huska.
And the biggest cheer of the night came with just under nine minutes left when Jeffrey – who managed 708 goals in 303 appearances as player-coach in the formative years – fired through the skates of Windebank from the right face-off circle.
Blyth returned to rob Aaron Connolly with an eye-catching glove save, before Kaminskas rushed up ice and dropped a pass for Kauhanen to send a wristshot home for a fifth Legends goal.
And the fans were on their feet for the final minute to chant their support for both squads as it ended 8-5 to the current Raiders.