Chelmsford Chieftains back-to-back double header with league leaders Solent Devils ended in triumph as the Chieftains ended the Devils 19 games winning streak. What was always going to be a tough two days got underway on Saturday when the Chieftains travelled to the south-coast and to the smallest rink in the league. Could the Chieftains exorcise the Devils in their own lair? High-scoring Brad Moore was once again not icing after a visit to the local hospital confirmed his unavailability for possibly the rest of the season, although he is fighting the odds to be fit for the play-off weekend next month. A large travelling band of Chelmsford fans made the journey to support their team but it was the home fans doing the celebrating when the Devils opened the scoring with just 1:36 on the game clock. As expected even at early doors it was apparent that it was going to be a weekend of hard-hitting physical Ice Hockey and both teams suffered the wrath of Referee Korsaks. Both teams receiving penalties to give their opponents a Powerplay situation, that extra skater on the ice. With just two minutes of the first period remaining Chieftains took full advantage of a powerplay situation, passing the puck around from player to player teasing the Devils defence. James Ayling’s pass to club captain Ross Brears was met with a solid strike and the puck went past netminder Christian Cole, high into the roof of the Devil’s net. As the clock ran down it looked like both teams were going into the first break all square at 1-1. But Devils had other ideas and with just 2 seconds remaining an Alex Murray pass was redirected into the net via the stick of Richard Facey giving the home side a one goal advantage as they headed to the dressing room. 46 seconds into the 2nd period and Chieftains were level at 2-2, Ayling turning from goal provider to goal-scorer, Swedish forward David Millner with the assist. A little over three minutes later at 24:07 the Devil’s goal lamp was lit again when James Hounsome beat Chieftains netminder Sonny Phillips at close range. The beginning of a six minute purple patch for the home team who scored two more unanswered goals given them a three goal advantage at the half-way mark. Chieftains refused to lie down and with a little over five minutes remaining of the 2nd period, two-goals within a minute from Ayling and Cameron Bartlett brought their team back within one of the league leaders at the second break. Seconds into the 3rd and final period Chieftains were given a powerplay after Dan Lackey was given a two minute ‘rest’ in the sin-bin for slashing. Once again the resultant Chieftains powerplay was to bare fruit and at 41:14 Ayling completed his hat-trick assisted by Grant Bartlett and Brears. At 5-5 it was anybody’s game and seconds after the restart boiling point was reached and both Chieftain Elliott Dervish and Devil Dan Shier were given 2+2 roughing penalties. Back to the game and at 46:03 a goal from Mitchell Murray had the home fans celebrating once more. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and two further goals (including one that looked not to have crossed the line) made it a 8-3 home win…could the Chieftains lift themselves for tomorrow’s home clash at Lee Valley?
On Sunday large crowds headed from all over Essex to Lee Valley Ice Centre, the temporary home of Riverside’s senior team. The majority of the crowd wanting to see their team gain revenge for the previous night’s result. Korsaks was wearing the referee’s armband for the second time over the weekend much to the annoyance of the Chieftain’s faithful. His popularity wained a little more when Grant Bartlett was called for tripping and Richard Facey scored just three seconds into the Powerplay to give the Devils an early advantage. But the fans groans of frustration were short-lived as Millner levelled under a minute later at 5:54 Ayling and Brears both credited with the assists. Seconds after the restart the first flash point of the evening when Assistant Captain Will Polston took umbrage to the challenge of Drew Campbell on young Elliot Dervish. Both Polston and Campbell received two minutes in the sin bin and Campbell was joined by teammate Mason Wild a minute later to give the Chieftains a one-man advantage. Solent defended well as the Chieftains failed to capitalise on the extra man. But no sooner had all players been released from the penalty box Chieftains scored the go ahead goal. Captain Brears scoring unassisted after intercepting a wayward Devils pass and beating Cole from close range at 11:43. But once again the visitors showed true character and replied with two quick goals at 15:52 and 16:07. Wild and Facey, who doubled his personal tally for the evening the goal-scorers. This gave the Devils a one goal advantage at the first period break. The game was on a knife-edge and the atmosphere within the rink was tense both on and off the ice. Chieftains needed to respond and it was the third line that upped their game with Ross Cowan, Elliot Dervish and Courtney Grant linking up to level the game at 3-3 with the latter credited with the goal. At 34:32 Grant Bartlett was penalised with a 10+2 penalty for a check to the head and with just 10 seconds of the Devil’s powerplay remaining they made it pay dividends. Mitch Murray and Mark Pitts working the puck and finding teammate Ben Lock at the far post who directed the puck low past Phillips. Chieftains ended the period on the wrong side of a 3-4 scoreline. Could the Chieftains rally and turn the game around in their favour? Would the Devils make it a maximum point weekend? The game really was that tight with nothing between the teams. The period started with a penalty going to Chieftains defenceman Donald Campbell at 44:19. He argued his innocence with referee Korsaks stating it was a shoulder and not the elbow as charged. But his plea fell on deaf ears and he took his place in the sin bin. A minute later and it was the Devils complaining as Wild joined Campbell in the bin bringing the teams back to equal numbers. Seconds later and the whistle was blown once more and Chieftains were back to a Powerplay after a holding call on Alex Cole. That was the break the Chieftains needed and once again Ayling and Brears combined. Ayling passed across goal and the unmarked Brears was back post as he swept the puck high into the net to make it 5-5. More drama as the game was coming to an end in regulation time as Ayling and Gary Brown were both sin-binned for high-sticks and slashing calls in the final two minutes giving the visitors a 5 on 3 powerplay chance and giving the home fans a tense final two minutes. Chieftains held firm but if the fans thought that was tense then overtime was looming as the final whistle blew. Five minutes of 4 on 4 overtime started with Chieftains a man down, Brown serving his final minute of his penalty. But his team held firm and from the moment he returned, the action became end-to-end flowing hockey with both netminders keeping their side in the game with big saves. With three minutes remaining the puck was in the net and Chieftains players rushed onto the ice to congratulate scorer Grant Bartlett. But despite initially giving the goal, after complaints from the Devils and consultation with fellow officials he reversed his decision saying that the puck had come off of Bartlett’s skate. After the confusion died down the Chieftains returned to there bench and the game continued until the final whistle. Still the sides were level and it now came down to penalty shots. First Chieftains and Grant Bartlett steps up to the centre spot. Skates in on net fakes a move the keeper buys it and he slots the puck home. Campbell steps up for the Devils and Phillips makes a fine save with his pads. Next for the Chieftains the previous nights man of the match James Ayling. He begins his approach and loses control of the puck which ends his attempt. Next for Solent it’s Richard Facey who hasn’t been goal shy over the weekend. Once again Phillips is up to the challenge and the puck is saved. Another Bartlett steps up, this time Cameron and as his brother did before him he beats Cole now 2-0 advantage Chieftains. Mitch Murray has to score for the Devils and Phillips is beaten for the first time in the shoot-out (2-1). Captain Brears is next to take up the challenge. He skates in slowly and as he approaches goal he skates left followed by Cole. But he’s got a clever move up his sleeve as his stick and puck both remain to the right and he slides the puck over the goal line. (3-1) Pressure on Alex Trendall who has to score, he’s up to the job and he keeps the Devils in it (3-2). Millner steps up to win it but his attempt is saved easily by Cole and it remains 3-2. It’s now up to Alex Murray to prevent a Chieftains victory. Skates in and Phillips saves and the celebration begins again for the Chieftains. But the referee once again halts the celebrations and decided that Phillips moved to early. Once again Murray bears down on the Chieftains net but once again Phillips reads his move to save. The Celebrations can now start for real as both fans and players celebrate a famous win over very tough opposition.
This Saturday the Chieftains are at “home” in Lee Valley once again where the Bristol Pitbulls are the visitors 17:30 Face-Off