Ice Hockey Preview
12:52 30 March 2012
Raiders on title brink
ENL Division 1
Slough v Romford Raiders (7pm)
Romford Raiders v Isle of Wight (5.15pm)
For weeks now it seems, Romford Raiders players and fans have been counting down the wins required to clinch the ENL Division One title.
And now Danny Marshall’s men are just 120 minutes away from being crowned champions after a roller-coaster regular season.
Raiders need three points from their last two matches to leapfrog Essex rivals Chelmsford and claim first place.
And captain Anthony Leone has said they will not take either game for granted this weekend.
Raiders may well have skated to 6-2 and 13-2 home wins over Slough this season, but they had to hold on for a 7-6 win on their first trip to Montem Lane in November.
With impressive young goalie Ryan Bainborough between the pipes, the Jets can prove tough to break down, as Chelmsford themselves discovered in a 5-0 home win last weekend.
But having won so well in Cardiff, Raiders should be confident of moving one step closer to the crown before a titanic last-day decider against their namesakes from the Isle of Wight.
Romford have come up short in their last three meetings, being held to a 4-4 draw at home in the first leg of their Raiders Challenge, before losing 7-4 in the return.
They were also beaten 5-2 in the league at Ryde, but with Andrius Kaminskas set to return from a two-match suspension this weekend Raiders will be almost back to full strength.
Young forward JJ Pitchley was called up by Great Britain Under-18s for their World Championship Division Two campaign in Holland, but has only been used as a spare forward in recent outings.
Marshall, Juraj Huska and Shaun Yardley combine well on the top line, while AJ Smith, Leone and Matt Turner form a productive second unit and Grant Taylor, Tom Davis and JJ McGrath have proven themselves to be the best third line in the whole division.
With their loyal fans behind them at a packed Rom Valley Way, the incentive is there for Marshall’s Raiders to write their names into the history books.
Gord Jeffrey led the club to the Heineken League Division Two title in their debut season in British ice hockey back in 1987/88, clinching top spot with an 8-5 home win over the Bournemouth Stags.
And Marshall was a young player in Troy Walkington’s squad when they won the English League Division One title in 1996/97, when the crown was secured in a 6-0 win in Cardiff.
Fully 15 years on, Romford will be able to call themselves league champions again by 8pm on Sunday if all goes to plan.