Following defeat at the hands of runaway league leaders Streatham Redhawks the previous weekend. Chelmsford Chieftains got back into winning ways with a hard fought 4-2 victory at Oxford on Sunday against the City Stars.
Chieftains were without club captain Julian Smith, Bailey Chittock, and both Cameron and Grant Bartlett. Luca Tessadri was between the pipes with Sonny Phillips backing up on the bench.
Chieftains took the game to Oxford and early pressure paid off as the experienced Stars defenceman Andy Cox was given a two minute penalty for tripping with 4:11 on the clock. Chieftains took full advantage of the extra man and took the lead with a powerplay goal at 5:16. Darren Brown beat Star’s netminder Matt Croyle at close range, James Pentecost, and Ethan Reid with the assists.
Less than a minute after the restart ex-Chieftain forward Jakub Klima was ejected from the game after boarding the Chieftain’s Captain for the evening, Andy Munroe. The defenceman picked himself up off the ice slowly, luckily with no apparent injury. This gave the Chieftains a 5-minute powerplay. They failed to take advantage and the Stars returned to full strength. With both sides having five skaters the game evened out with both teams having great chances. Croyle’s pads stopped James Ayling’s shot and Tessadri came up with two big saves at the opposite end.
With the DJ announcing that only one minute remained of the opening period, up stepped Michal Korenko.The Chieftain’s Slovakian Defenceman latched on to a loose puck and smashed the puck past Croyle to double his team’s advantage at 19:09
Immediately after the restart, the buzzer sounded and Chieftains left the ice, going back to their dressing room with a 2-0 lead.
When the puck was dropped to begin the second period Chieftains took confidence from their lead and piled the pressure onto the Stars who were pegged back into their own defensive zone. At 23:54 Oxford Coach Dean Birrell had seen enough and signalled a time out to let his team regain composure and plan on how to deal with the Chieftains onslaught.
Play was restarted and it is now the Chieftain’s turn to warm their sin bin benches for the first time in the game. Brown was given a two minute penalty for tripping and he was joined thirty seconds later by Matt Turner for holding. This gave the Stars their first powerplay and an extra bonus of 5 skaters on 3. Chieftains killed the powerplay only to find themselves in the referee’s bad book once again at 38:23 Reid adjudged to have tripped Joe Edwards.
This time the Chieftains paid the price and Tessadri was beaten by Star’s forward Matt Lawday at 38:31 which gave his side hope as the buzzer sounded. Both teams left the ice with everything to play for in the final twenty minutes of play.
The puck was dropped and Chieftains were unlucky not to score early, Turner’s shot ringing off the post. Star’s forward Dan Hedges was then given a two minute penalty for tripping. But despite having a player disadvantage it was the Stars who had the best chance. Tessadri came up with a big save off the blocker from a Jake Williams slap-shot.
At 45:29 Turner was again in the sin-bin, this time for tripping. This was the chance the Stars were waiting for and thirty seconds later their pressure played off. The Stars played the puck around the Chieftains defensive zone and Williams spotted Hedges in front of the net. His pass was perfect and the latter slotted the puck past Tessadri to tie the game at 2-2.
Chieftains began to look tired and it was the boost the Stars needed and they began to put the visitors under intense pressure. Star’s forward Edwards gave Chieftains a brief reprieve at 50:59 when he was given a two minute charging penalty. But as soon as he returned to the ice the Chieftains were back on the back foot. With seven minutes of the game remaining the pressure cooker became too much for Chieftain Kieron Raynor and Oxford’s Jake Willliams. Both dropped gloves and went toe-to-toe with Raynor taking the spoils. Both were ejected from the ice and the game restarted with both teams even-handed.
But a minute later the game turned in the Chieftain’s favour. With Oxford’s Logan Prince sitting in the sin bin after being awarded a two minute rest by the referee, Chieftains took the game to the other end of the ice. Playing the puck around the zone looking for the opportunity for a shot on goal, whilst the Stars tried everything to cut off any route to goal. But Stanislav Lascek linked up with Munroe whose pass to James Ayling was struck first time into the back of the net. 3-2 at 54:47 with a little over 5 minutes remaining.
The Stars looked to even things up and came straight back at the Chieftains who were desperate, not only for the win, but to avoid the dreaded overtime. It was all hands on deck for the defence as the Stars laid siege to the Tessadri net. But as they pushed forward the Star’s paid the price. Reid intercepted the puck and he passed along the boards to Brown. Pentecost was unmarked on the other wing and Brown’s cross ice pass was controlled perfectly and there was now just Croyle to beat. With the small net and padded body of the netminder, a one-on-one with the shot-stopper is not as simple as it sounds. But Pentecost placed his shot perfectly as soon as Croyle made his move. The red goal light was lit to signal a fourth Chieftains goal and a 4-2 victory for coach Joe Wilson and his team.
A brave attempt by the Stars, but the short-benched Chieftains deserved the victory. Tessadri was the Man of the Match and the Chieftains moved just two points behind second-placed Solent Devils in NIHL Division 1 South.
This Sunday Chieftains entertain Milton Keynes Thunder at Riverside with a 6pm face-off. Doors open at 5pm and tickets are available via the website. www.chelmsfordchieftain.com