When Raiders stung Bees in one of greatest matches in Romford’s ice hockey history

PUBLISHED: 11:00 10 April 2020

Romford Raiders beat Bracknell Bees in a promotion play-off at Rom Valley Way on April 8, 1990

Romford Raiders beat Bracknell Bees in a promotion play-off at Rom Valley Way on April 8, 1990


It was 30 years ago this week that the old Rom Valley Way ice rink was packed to the rafters to witness an exhilarating English League play-off clash.

Raiders cult hero Tari Suwari (pic David Kilburn)Raiders cult hero Tari Suwari (pic David Kilburn)

The Romford Raiders played host to the regular season champions Bracknell Bees on April 8, 1990 in the last match of the promotion round-robin group, in what was a winner-takes-all contest.

And, all these years later, with Raiders having played 1,588 matches in all, it remains one of the most iconic in the long history of ice hockey in the town.

It was only season three for the Raiders, who had won the Heineken League Division Two title in their debut campaign, but then suffered relegation just one year later.

In a seven-team English League, they finished four points behind the Bees during the 24-game regular season, having lost their first two meetings (7-6, 11-5), but redressed the balance with wins in their other two (8-5, 10-6).

Geoff Williams in action for Romford Raiders in 1990 (pic David Kilburn)Geoff Williams in action for Romford Raiders in 1990 (pic David Kilburn)

Raiders lost 3-2 to the Bees in their first play-off match, but home wins over Chelmsford (7-1) and Oxford (4-3) preceded a 5-4 loss at Basingstoke, which was quickly overturned by an 8-6 home win over the Beavers a week later.

And away wins at Chelmsford (9-3) and Oxford (12-8) set up the nail-biting decider, with Raiders and Bees both sitting on 5-2 records behind already-promoted Basingstoke.

A 1,500 capacity crowd filled RVW (there could well have been more) and Darin Fridgen’s opener was cancelled out 16 seconds later by Raiders player-coach Gord Jeffrey.

Fridgen completed his hat-trick to make it 3-1, but Jeffrey and Marc Chartier hit back to ensure the first period ended level, then Chartier put Raiders ahead early in the middle session.

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The home fans were soon silenced, though, as Paul Morganti, Fridgen and former Raiders Adam Anderson put Bees 6-4 up, before Peter Doig and Chartier squared matters again.

Jeffrey’s hat-trick goal then put Raiders 7-6 ahead with just 14 seconds left in the period, only for Fridgen’s fifth goal of the night to level things yet again.

Then Chartier scored twice in 14 seconds to see Raiders 9-7 to the good, before Jamie Craiper (power play) and Fridgen (shorthanded) made it 9-9 in the 47th minute.

Jeffrey edged his side in front once more and, after a double minor roughing penalty against Steve Condren was killed off, struck an excellent unassisted fifth for an 11-9 lead with under four minutes to go.

Then, with Jeffrey and Fridgen in the penalty box, Chartier capped a superb night’s work with his sixth goal to seal a 12-9 victory that remains one of the greatest in Raiders history.

There was some consolation for the Bees, who were also promoted following Streatham’s decision to pull out of competitive hockey, but Raiders had earned the bragging rights on an unforgettable night.

Jeffrey, who scored a total of 708 goals and 523 assists in 303 appearances for Raiders, named it as one of his favourites some years later, saying: “There was a big contingent of their fans at the game and I loved beating them in those days.

“There was quite an intense rivalry between our teams when Craiper and Fridgen were playing for the Bees!”

Raiders: Marc Chartier 6+3, Gord Jeffrey 5+2, Peter Doig 1+2, Tari Suwari 0+1, Geoff Williams 0+1.

Shots on goal: Raiders 40 Bracknell 46.

Penalty minutes: Raiders 18 Bracknell 30.

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