Chieftains faced the Bristol Pitbulls at Riverside Leisure Centre on Sunday in NIHL Division 1 South league action.
Without top scorer Grant Bartlett, Andy Munroe, and Matt Turner coach Joe Wilson had to make a few tactical adjustments. Luca Tessadri was the starting netminder, backed-up by Billy Cook.
Chieftains made their usual attacking start to the game and went ahead at 4:48. Darren Brown picked up a pass from Slovakian forward Stanislav Lascek. Brown found James Ayling and once the puck was in his control, the Chelmsford born forward danced through three Pitbull defencemen. With only the opposing netminder John Dibble to beat he looked as if he was going to skate in front of goal, but changed direction and coolly back-handed the puck into the net.
39 seconds later Chieftains doubled their advantage through Cameron Bartlett. Pitbulls pushed forward looking for a quick equaliser but Chieftains intercepted the puck. Michal Korenko slipped the puck along the ice to Bartlett who had space on the left wing. He fired the puck with a powerful wrist shot over the left shoulder of Dibble into the roof of the net.
The first powerplay went to the visitors when Bailey Chittock was penalised for a cross-check at 5:36. Pitbulls looked to break their duck and passed the puck around the zone looking for the gap. At 6:37 they found the space and Tamas Elias beat Tessadri to open their account with a powerplay goal. Two minutes later it was the Chieftain’s turn to have the extra skater when Tom Asprey was sent to the sin-bin for tripping. Chieftains completed the punishment at 9:09, Brown latching on to a Lascek pass in front of a crowded net. He made no mistake smashing the puck into the net to regain a two-goal advantage, now 3-1.
Another three minutes and Lascek, who had already assisted two Chieftains goals were rewarded with a brilliantly executed strike at 11:59. Ayling went down onto the ice in the Pitbulls defensive zone. He managed to poke the puck along the ice to Lascek. As the Slovakian’s stick made contact with the puck a defenceman’s stick made contact at the same time. The puck was flicked into the air and Lascek spun and hit the puck mid-air. It flew like a bullet past Dibble into the back of the net giving the Chieftains a 4:1 lead and already it looked like it was going to be a good night for the home fans.
At 13:15 Chieftains hit further penalty trouble, Kieran Raynor penalised for hooking. No sooner had he taken his seat in the bin he was joined 11 seconds later by Bartlett on a roughing call. With a two-man advantage, the Pitbulls once again made the Chieftains pay the price and Joe Morris beat Tessadri to score their second powerplay goal of the night. But the Chieftain’s goals kept coming and once again Ayling and Lascek linked up for the assist and their move was finished off by Chittock who bullied the puck past Dibble at close range for Chieftains fifth of the night with 16:35 on the game clock.
Chittock’s celebrations soon turned to frustration as he was sent to the sin bin by the referee for a two-minute interference penalty. Chieftains penalty-killing once again failing to stop the powerplay pressure of the Pitbulls. Josh Shaw scoring for the visitors as the first period winding down at 18:41.
The 1st period ended with the Chieftains leading 5-3, penalties keeping the Pitbulls within range. The puck dropped for the 2nd period and once again Chieftains made an early impact. Lascek’s pass to Bartlett who controlled the puck and struck it soundly across the front of the net. It was met by TJ Fillery whose shot beat Dibble for the sixth time in the evening, only 1:28 after the restart. At 23:08 Chittock received his third penalty of the evening but this time the Chieftains managed to keep the Pitbulls Powerplay team at bay for the first time in the game.
Back to full strength, but only for a few minutes as Chittock was obviously not on the referee’s Christmas card list for this year. 28:21 and the sin-bin door opened again for the Chelmsford forward, his second interference call of the game. Pitbulls pushed forward but Chieftains had other ideas and decided the best method of defence was attack. Once again Lascek was instrumental and his cross-ice pass was finished off in style by Brown lurking on the back post, a short-handed strike at 28:44. Leading 7-3 the Chieftains were once again in control. At 32:54 a slash from Bartlett was spotted by the officials. Pitbull’s Aaron Moody met Bartlett mid-ice to make his feelings known. Fists flew and Bartlett took Moody to the ice and was cheered by the home fans all the way to the bin. In the same incident, Raynor was awarded a 10-minute personal penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Pitbull forward Morris was also penalised for cross-checking.
Both teams settled back game to playing the game and it was end to end play, both teams having chances. With just a minute left of the period, Mason Lipsey reminded the Chieftains they still had work to do as his goal made it 7-4 with the final twenty minutes of play still remaining. The puck dropped for the last period and Chieftains looked to secure the win and put pressure on the teams above them in the table. At 46:04 Chris Beckett and Liam Coleman dropped gloves after coming together behind the Pitbulls net. Advantage Coleman but a brave showing by the Chelmsford young gun. Both were given 5-minute penalties for fighting.
Forty-nine seconds after the penalty Chieftains were celebrating once more as the red goal light was lit. Chieftains piled forward and Ayling skated in on the net. A desperate dive across the ice by two Pitbulls who tried to intercept the puck, but Ayling squared the puck back across goal. In skates Lascek put the puck away to give the Chieftains a healthy 8-4 advantage with just thirteen minutes remaining.
At 49:00 Pitbulls forward Oliver Endicott scored what looked to be a consolation strike for his team. But Chieftains responded with another class goal, TJ Fillery showing superb stickhandling skills to destroy two Pitbull defenders and give Dibble no chance on his blocker side at 51:43.
Pitbulls still kept playing and were rewarded when Mason Lipsey scored the Pitbull’s 6th and final goal with four minutes remaining. But the action was still not over. At 56.55 Bartlett took a hard hit from Morris and was left on the ice much to the dismay of his teammates. Brown faced up to Morris who took hold of his face cage and tried to remove the helmet from his head but the officials stepped in. Bartlett got up and raised his stick in anger but refrained from swinging it at the Pitbull that was on his way to the sin bin. But Brown and Morris received 5-minute penalties which ended their evening and Bartlett was directed from the ice after receiving a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Chieftains hit double figures at 57:14, Ayling putting the icing on the cake for what was a superb personal performance for the 29-year-old forward. But he was beaten to the man of the match beers by Stanislav Laslek for his two goals and five assists haul on the night. A fantastic 10:6 home victory that lifts the chieftains to third place in the league level on points with Invicta Dynamos.
They are just one point above Slough Jets who visit Riverside this Sunday, 6pm face-off and tickets are available online at www.chelmsforchieftains.com
On Saturday the Chieftains travel to Bristol so it’s a busy weekend ahead for the Chieftains and the Black ’n’ Gold Army, the growing number of fans that support the City’s Icemen.