Chelmsford Chieftains 10, Milton Keynes Thunder 2
MUCH was made of the grand re-opening of the new look Riverside ice rink and the bumper crowd that turned up lapped up the new facilities and were treated to a great performance on the ice from the Chieftains.
The trip the previous night was not convincing from the Chieftains, despite deserving a 6-4 win and Sunday night’s game was clearly a 'lets show them what we're capable of' type game and it showed!
The biggest crowd in more than five years at the Riverside witnessed a demolition job of the highest proportion. Tom Long opened the scoring on his return to Essex on 4:34 with a nice wraparound finish, followed up 5minutes later by Ross Brears re-directed a blast from Danny Wright.
The first major incident of the night then happened at 12:46 and a huge coming together at centre ice left former Chieftains coach Simon Howard to be helped off the ice and took little part in the rest of the game. Just over a minute later and it was 3-0 when Matt Turner (pictured, by Ian Snoding) notched his first goal for the Chieftains since his move from Romford in the summer.
Before the Thunder could get themselves together it was 4-0 when BT Williams fired in on Mark Woolfe who could only deflect the shot into the on-rushing path of Aaron Connolly who fired home to round out the scoring for the first period.
94 seconds was all it took of the second period to become 5-0 when GB international James Ayling showed some fancy stickwork in front of the net and put it past a helpless Woolf. Just past the halfway mark in the game and it was 6-0 when Long scored his second of the night, quickly followed up by Danny Hammond putting it past Woolf to make it 7. Things were heating up on the ice and some big checks going in from both sides, with Danny Cox in particular making some huge body checks.
8-0 came at 42:08 as Turner notched his second and soon made it 9-0 and with it got his hat-trick goal after an excellent screen from Hammond in front of the MK net. That was enough for Woolf and backup goalie Jake Scriven came in and this seemed to drive the Thunder on and they struck back on 48:31 when Ross Bowers slid it past Ben Clements, who until now had been in outstanding form, despite having little to do. A few nervous looks were passed around the rink when the Thunder got their second on 52:11 and it looked like a comeback of sorts was on. That was until Blaho Novak stepped up and fired home to make it 10-2 and that was the end of that for the game.
The man of the match awards went to Matt Turner for the Chieftains and Ross Bowers for the Thunder. Both of which were hard to argue against.
Dean Birrell, head coach, said: “It was a much improved performance tonight from Saturday night’s game. I was pleased to see the new guys settling in well, despite the difficult off-season. We've only skated on this ice once before tonight and probably had less than a quarter of most teams training and practice.
“It was wonderful to see such a large crowd in tonight and I understand it's the largest seen here since the EPL days and that shows that club is really moving forwards and it shows in the team. They know if they have a big crowd out to watch them then they have that little extra and it also makes it more intimidating for the opposition to come here knowing that it's becoming 'Fortress Riverside'.
“Next week we have two tough games. Bracknell Hornets away is never an easy place to go to with with the big ice surface there and they are of course the reigning play-off champions. Then the following night we have one of the biggest games of the season when we travel down to Kent to take on the Invicta Dynamos in an always feisty clash. They'll be looking for the points as much as we will and it should prove a big test for both sides.”
It wasn't such a good Sunday at the beach for the Chelmsford Warriors though as they went down 8-1 to the Wightlink Tigers on the Isle of Wight. Jason Coles from the Tigers scored 4 for the Tigers. The Warriors will be looking to put that result behind them and start picking up wins as they have a home double-header next weekend when Cardiff Satans come to town on Saturday night and the Slough ENL Jets are the visitors on Sunday night in Chelmsford.