Ice hockey: Telford 7 Raiders 3
PUBLISHED: 20:07 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 20:07 15 March 2020
Everyone Active Raiders were unable to stop Telford claiming the National League title as they suffered their second defeat of the weekend on Sunday.
Beaten 5-3 at home by play-off rivals Bracknell the night before, Raiders travelled to Shropshire to fulfil the fixture, after MK Lightning and the Bees confirmed they would not go to Leeds and Sheffield, respectively, due to growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
But Sean Easton's men arrived at Telford Ice Rink, where they had won 3-2 on their previous visit in late November, without their own match jerseys and were forced to wear Tigers whites, falling behind with barely three minutes played as ex-Raider Scott McKenzie beat Michael Gray.
Aaron Connolly went close to a reply before the home side doubled their lead on an odd-man rush through Brandon Whistle - son of former Raiders import Dave - in the sixth minute.
Lukas Sladkovsky forced Brad Day into action with a shot from the right wing, while Gray blocked an effort from Corey Goodison at the other end of the ice.
Ollie Baldock had a shot held by Day, but Raiders failed to capitalise on a hooking penalty against Daniel Mitchell and Dan Fuller did well to stop Whistle getting to the net, before Jake Sylvester went close for the visitors late in the opening period.
Tigers went 3-0 up just before the break, though, after Sladkovsky was binned for slashing and the veteran Jonathan Weaver beat Gray on the power play with a shot from the point through traffic.
The middle session was only 49 seconds old when captain Connolly got Raiders on the scoreboard and Erik Piatak had a shot kicked away by Day before setting up Ayliffe for a second goal into the roof of the net in the 25th minute.
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Jacob Ranson and Piatak were next to have chances for the visitors, before Ross Kennedy was binned for delay of game and Raiders went on a power play.
Dan Scott had a shot kicked out and Piatak saw another deflected over before Tigers returned to full strength, with Kennedy seeing a long-range effort deflected high for the hosts.
Nicholas Oliver denied Olegs Lascenko a shooting chance just past the midway mark, while Day saved a left-wing attempt from Piatak as Raiders searched for an equaliser.
But Tigers went 4-2 up following a scramble in front of Gray's net, with Whistle forcing the puck over the line, and captain Jason Silverthorn fired into the top corner for a fifth soon after.
Day denied Jack Flynn at close range, but Raiders fell further behind in the final minute of the period after Fuller was called for slashing as Ricky Plant tucked home a rebound on the power play to open up a four-goal cushion with 20 minutes remaining.
Sladkovsky had a shot blocked early in the final period and Piatak sent the puck over Day's net, after Jed Moreland saw his effort held by Gray.
And as news of second place Swindon's 10-3 defeat in Peterborough came through, the Tigers fans began to celebrate their side's title win during the final 10 minutes of the match.
Gray denied Oliver and Dominik Florian, with a great save, as the party got into full swing in the stands, before Flynn and Andrew McKinney picked up roughing minors and the Raiders forward collected an additional 10-minute misconduct penalty.
Neither side could add to the tally during the 4-on-4, but Raiders grabbed their third goal with just under three minutes to play through JJ Pitchley, only for McKinney to have the final word with a seventh Tigers marker jsut 23 seconds from time.
Raiders are set to visit Leeds next Saturday and host Swindon in their final match of the regular season, but whether those fixtures do now go ahead remains to be seen.
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