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Cooper looking for big London Raiders finish

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 March 2017

Jack Cooper was man of the match for London Raiders in their cup semi-final first leg meeting with Chelmsford (pic John Scott)

Jack Cooper was man of the match for London Raiders in their cup semi-final first leg meeting with Chelmsford (pic John Scott)

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Defenceman determined to end regular season on a high

London Raiders defenceman Jack Cooper is looking for a big finish to the regular National League season with the play-offs looming large on the horizon.

Raiders welcome Solent Devils to Lee Valley on Sunday, before hosting Streatham in their last home match six days later and ending the campaign with a trip to Oxford.

Currently lying in fifth place, they could still snatch the runners-up spot from Invicta if they win their last three matches and the Dynamos lose their last three fixtures.

Although that remains mathematically possible, it is more likely that Raiders will occupy third, fourth or fifth, but Cooper is confident about this weekend, having beaten Solent in their three previous meetings this season.

He said: “Solent, I believe, we will beat. We just need to play with passion, hard work and support each other and ‘Kinger’ in net.

“The fans have been amazing at making our barn a really loud place to play in, which gives us the momentum we need and I know they will carry that through all the way to the play-offs.”

Raiders saw their hopes of cup silverware shattered by champions Chelmsford last weekend, as they slipped to an 8-2 aggregate defeat.

A big crowd at Lee Valley saw the two sides produce a high-tempo opening 10 minutes, before Jake Sylvester – having scored a hat-trick on a previous visit – put the visitors ahead at 13.45.

Grant Bartlett quickly doubled Chelmsford’s lead, but Brandon Miles hit back on a delayed penalty call against Brandon Ayliffe before the break.

The scoreline remained unchanged during the middle session, but Chieftains restored their two-goal cushion just 34 seconds into the final stanza as former Raiders captain Anthony Leone struck.

Raiders, despite being without injured leading scorer Marek Nahlik, refused to throw in the towel, though, and got some late reward as skipper Tom Davis converted a late powerplay chance, following a slashing call against Matt Turner.

Cooper added: “We always knew last weekend was going to be a couple of tough games, but we stayed confident because we’ve already beaten them twice.

“Saturday’s game we started a bit slow, but then got our momentum back again and was unlucky to tie it up.”

Raiders saw Sunday’s journey up the A12 delayed by the fact the road had to be closed for the air ambulance to land and deal with an incident, but still hoping to overturn their one-goal deficit from the night before.

Sylvester squashed those hopes within seven minutes of the start, though, and Juraj Huska added a second Chieftains goal late in the opening period.

Danny Hammond made it 3-0 with just over seven minutes of the middle period played and Huska netted again on a powerplay, after Stewart Tait was called for interference.

Carl Graham added Chelmsford’s fifth goal of the night after 33 minutes, but there was no more scoring after that as former Romford junior Sonny Phillips turned aside 23 shots to register his second shutout against the Raiders this season.

Cooper added: “We knew we had to get an early goal on Sunday and we were all over them in the first 10 minutes, but we then let our game slip a bit and Chelmsford capitalised.

“We got tired throughout the game as we were shortbenched and I believe that was one of the main differences.

“I’m confident in our last few matches before the play-offs, but we need to stick to what we work on in training and support each other on the ice and stay disciplined.”

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