Smith buzzing as Raiders beat Bees
PUBLISHED: 09:15 20 March 2018
Raiders defenceman Julian Smith was delighted to help see off Bracknell in the first round of the National League play-offs at the weekend.
The experienced blue liner was a commanding presence at the back during a 4-2 home win at Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre, which sealed a 10-7 aggregate success over the Bees.
And Smith was pleased to see Raiders live up to their higher seeding, having finished above Bracknell in fourth place during the regular season.
He said: “Coming into this weekend against the Bees we knew we were going to be in for a tough challenge.
“What we had been able to achieve by breaking into the top four would have given the Bees that extra motivation to get back at us this weekend.
“We knew the away leg in this quarter-final was huge, our aim was to be even or better coming away and that’s exactly what we did.”
Early goals from Juraj Huska and JJ Pitchley put Raiders 2-0 up in Berkshire, but the hosts hit back with three unanswered goals either side of the first break.
Huska, Jake Sylvester and Marek Nahlik replied to put Raiders 5-3 up after two periods, but Bees had the edge in the final session although Nahlik’s second goal sealed a 6-5 victory for the visitors.
Matt Turner widened the gap in the return leg, but Bees scored twice to level the overall aggregate score, before Sylvester struck.
Nahlik then put Raiders 3-2 up on the night and when Bees pulled goalie Alex Mettam for an extra skater, Sylvester shot into the empty net to the delight of another packed-out crowd to set up a meeting with league champions Basingstoke next weekend.
Smith added: “As a team our performances at home in our new barn has been excellent and with the crowd behind us we believed we could progress to the semi final.
“We face the league champions in the semis and know this will be our toughest challenge yet. We took the Bison right to the wire last time we faced them (a 2-1 loss) and the boys are ready to do the same again.”