Banners On The Road – Wightlink Raiders vs Bracknell Hornets 24/3/13Posted: 24/03/2013 | |
Wightlink Raiders 10-3 Bracknell Hornets
Hanzal x3 Hughes
Smith x 2
With the Bison not in action till Sunday night and the NIHL 1 South title still technically in the balance although heavily weighted in favour of Chelmsford who needed to win against bottom placed Solent and Gosport, I ventured over the water to Ryde to see if the Wightlink Raiders could guarantee second seed for the playoffs with a win over the Bracknell Hornets.
The Game: A short benched Hornets team visited the island with former Bees and Wildcats netminder Chris Douglas between the pipes. The hosts started former Bison backstop Matt Colclough.
The game took a little while to warm up as both teams tried to set their stalls out. The Hornets were trying to conserve energy as their 11 skaters looked to strike on the counter as the much fuller Wightlink bench looked to get their lines up to speed. The hosts looked the more dangerous of the two sides and did have the puck in the net when Jiri Hanzal fired past Douglas but one of his team mates had edged offside before the shot was let go. However the Raiders were not to be denied and took the lead shortly afterwards. Jeremy Cornish fed Craig Tribe from behind the net. Douglas saved the initial shot but Tribe had time to get the rebound over the line at 5:27. The Hornets went straight up the other end but were denied by Colclough and the Raiders kept trying to exert their dominance. Some great passing gave Alex Murray a great chance but as he shot at the open cage he was denied by a terrific diving stop from Douglas who was standing on his head.
The Raiders switched off for a few moments and Bracknell took control of the game. They pressured the hosts in the offensive zone and Tom Fisher found Peter Jasik in space who turned and fired past Colclough to tie the scores at 11:32.
The Raiders attempted to push back but their efforts were continually thwarted by Douglas in the Bracknell goal. He denied Cornish then stood firm during a Wightlink powerplay but was powerless to stop Jiri Hanzal. The Czech forward took a step over the blueline and fired a laser beam of a shot over the glove of the Hornets’ netminder at 16:01. The advantage was added to at 17:36 when the Raiders 3rd line added to the tally. Robbie Brown’s shot was saved but Corey Watkins was on hand at the top of the crease to make it 3-1. The first period wound down with the Raiders deservedly in front.
The second period started with a bit more energy than the first; Corey Watkins landed a hip check on Peter Jasik and Danny Hughes saw his breakaway chance saved by Colclough.
Robbie Brown was late with a hit and quickly found himself challenged by Tony Barclay. Barclay slipped and fell which left Brown, not known for his fighting skills, looking perplexed as to what to do. Brown landed a couple of cursory blows to Barclay’s ribs, both were called 2+2 for roughing and that was that. Bracknell had a powerplay as a result of Brown’s original hit but the best chances fell to the Raiders but Douglas kept standing firm but he couldn’t stop Hanzal’s second shortly after when he took the feed from Richard Facey and slotted home from Douglas’ left at 31:48.
That was all the scoring in the second period but the Raiders kept pressing but couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a 5th goal. Douglas as well was having an outstanding night in net for the visitors, sometimes making saves by luck more than judgement but he was certainly earning the plaudits on the night with the Hornets being outshot 48-15 through 40 minutes.
Sadly for the tired and short benched Hornets, the floodgates opened in the third as the Raiders started to turn it on. Douglas got a piece of Alex Murray’s shot from the slot but not enough to stop the puck making its way into the goal for 5-1. Less than a minute later, Jeremy Cornish did what he does best and cleared the net after his shot which gave James Smith time to skate around the back of the cage, turn and fire into the net to make it 6-1. With Peter Jasik off for holding the stick, the Raiders powerplay went to work and Hanzal passed across the point to Nick Compton who blasted home for 7-1 with just under 6 minutes of the period gone.
The pace of the game slowed as the teams were well aware of the outcome of the game but both teams were looking to make a dent on the scoring and Bracknell were certainly not going quietly into the night despite looking exhausted.
A shot from James Smith took a deflection off of a Hornets player and Douglas made the initial stop but Richard Facey poked the rebound through the 5 hole to make it 8-1 at 50:47. Then out of nowhere about 30 seconds later it was 8-2. Danny Hughes forced the turnover, was pulled back by at least 2 Raiders players but found a way to fire past Colclough to take some of the gloss off of the scoreline.
The pace of the game was still not very high but the Hornets still refused to stop coming and made it 8-3 when Ryan Handisides got a deserved goal for his efforts when he went 5 hole on Colclough. The Hornets however were undone when they kept pressing forward looking for more goals as first Hanzal added his hattrick goal off of a pass to the backdoor from Nathan Taylor and then James Smith walked over the blueline and fired a beautiful wrist shot for the 10th. The final buzzer sounded and the fans applauded both teams off the ice but the scoreline was a just reflection of the quality of both sides.
The Raiders: Despite having never really needed to get out of 2nd gear, the Raiders and coach Jeremy Cornish will be happy with the performance. You can only beat what is in front of you and despite a couple of moments where they switched off, were clinical and put their opponents to the sword.
Jiri Hanzal was a worthy winner of the man of the match beers for his hattrick. He took all of his goals well and looked like a decent import at this level. His 3+2 on the night should have got him man of the match and it did. James Smith as well had a good night and took both of his goals well. Whilst murmurs about his attitude are what resulted in his moving to the NIHL from Basingstoke but his quality shines through and he looks like he should be getting another crack at the EPL sooner rather than later.
One player who I thought looked good for the first time I saw him was Aidan Doughty. The captain of the u18 Raiders is normally a forward but played most of last night on defence and looked confident, assured and made the sensible plays. He did the simple stuff well which is important to a young player and I have to believe that Mr Cornish will make more use of the young man in the 2013/14 campaign.
The league sadly slipped away from the Raiders on the night as Chelmsford walked over Solent and Gosport but this Raiders side has to believe that they can make a serious run into the playoffs if they can keep that clinical edge going forward.
The Hornets: 11 skaters and 2 netminders made the trip across the Solent for the tie and the short bench was what killed the Hornets in the end. The players that were there played with a lot of heart and hustle but just had no answer at times.
Firstly, take a bow Chris Douglas. The Hornets netminder was a deserved man of the match for some spectacular saves and what some might have missed, some really good saves that he made look ordinary. People will speak about the diving stop in the first period but there were so many good stops that in the 65 saves as well.
I’m not overly familiar with the Hornets squad but one player I really liked the look of was Ryan Handisides. His work rate and effort were really impressive and the one time Sheffield Scimitar might be one who makes an appearance for the Bees at some stage. Peter Jasik also looked decent, his drop to the NIHL still a mystery for those not in the know but he took his goal well and if the Hornets can keep him for next season he makes them an instant threat when at full strength.
The Hornets need to regroup as they head into the playoffs. It’s hard to judge their quality on that performance last night but they appear to be ready to skate for each other and the jersey. That’s a good start.
Overall: The result of the game was never really in doubt sadly but as always it was an entertaining night. Wightlink backup netminder Dan Weller-Evans sorted me a free plate of cheesy chips which I think is the first free perk I’ve ever had at a hockey game so cheers for that Dan.
The game had a mix of everything; goals, hits, decent action though it wasn’t played at the fastest pace as both teams had little to play for in the final weekend of the regular season. It was a shame that the scoreline got as high as it did because it didn’t really reflect the effort Bracknell gave but emphasised the quality up front that the Raiders have. When the Raiders’ concentration lapsed, they conceded goals and at the business end of the season they need to eliminate from their game but Wightlink, along with league champions Chelmsford and Romford will certainly be in the mix for the playoff championship.
NOTE: Today, 24th March is Banners On The Wall’s second birthday. This started as an idea and people said they’d read what I have to say. 56 games of hockey across 2 continents, player signings and leaving, you keep reading. I think my writing has improved over time and hopefully it will continue to do so with you all watching. Thanks for all your support, Anthony