Raiders rally to book final spot

21:43 15 April 2012

Raiders players celebrate one of their goals

Raiders players celebrate one of their goals

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Strong third period downs Dynamos

Romford Raiders 7 Invicta 3

(Raiders win 13-7 on aggregate)

Raiders came from behind to score five times in the final period at Rom Valley Way to book their place in the ENL play-off final.

Young defenceman Billy Phillips finished with a superb hat-trick to his name as Danny Marshall’s treble-hunters set up a meeting with Essex rivals Chelmsford, who beat the Isle of Wight 9-4 on aggregate in other semi-final.

But Invicta, again, gave Raiders much to think about on another tense evening.

With 6:49 gone, Invicta worked the puck in from the left boards and Noble deked Gray to open the scoring and give Dynamos a huge lift.

And to make matters worse for Raiders, Juilan Smith talked himself into trouble with Evans, earning a 10-minute misconduct penalty.

Ryan Ellis flashed a slapshot into Gray’s glove hand, before forcing a pad save from the resultant face-off.

And Noble picked Marshall’s pocket to test Gray with a wristshot, before Andy Smith was foiled by a double save as Dynamos looked to tie up the aggregate score.

Shaun Wallis saw Moffat hold his tight angle shot and was then hit from behind by Anthony Lennon, prompting a brief melee and warnings from Evans to both benches.

Gray thwarted Callum Best’s first-time effort on another good Invicta chance, while a slapshot from Phillips was spilled by Moffat and Huska’s angled effort forced a stick save before Ellis got a backhand shot away to test Gray once more.

The shot count at the first break told a worrying story, with Invicta 21-9 ahead in that category.

Huska forced a blocker save from Moffat in the opening seconds of the middle period, but Raiders had Gray to thank again when Fowler set up Noble at close range and he snatched the puck out of the air.

Moffat thwarted Marshall at close range, before Invicta blew a 3-on-1 opportunity and Turner tip-toed his way through the visiting defence to score a controversial equaliser.

Phillips was called for roughing to hand Dynamos a powerplay chance and they made it count as Ellis fed the puck out from the right corner for Andy Smith to net from a sharp angle.

Raiders got back on terms as Phillips made amends with a long-range blast which squirmed through the pads of Moffat and trickled over the line.

But Invicta moved 3-2 up soon after when Callum Best tipped in Noble’s shot.

The final period was only eight seconds old when Raiders got back on terms for a third time as Phillips fired goalwards from the right point and, when the puck was blocked en route, Huska whacked it gleefully home.

And after Noble hit the metalwork, Raiders took their first lead of the night when Leone centred from the right for AJ Smith to apply the finishing touch at close range.

Raiders widened the gap as Yardley found Huska with a cross-ice pass and the Slovakian cut inside to fizz a wristshot into the far top corner.

And after Taylor was called for slashing to give Dynamos another powerplay, Huska found Phillips up ice and he snapped a shot past Moffat for a shorthanded sixth.

Tempers boiled over with five minutes left when Corey Watkins speared Gray and earned a match penalty.

Yardley collected a 2+10 for roughing after stepping in first to defend his goalie and words were exchanged between the team benches.

Gray denied Tim Smith and Noble on an extended spell of 4-on-3, then kicked out Andy Smith’s effort as the match entered its final two minutes.

And the Raiders goalie finished with 36 saves to his name, having done much to help their passage into the championship finale next weekend.

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