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Easton: Raiders made hard work of historic Romford win

PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 February 2018

Everyone Active Raiders players and staff with youngsters on the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre rink after their first match (pic Ben Pitchley)

Everyone Active Raiders players and staff with youngsters on the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre rink after their first match (pic Ben Pitchley)

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Coach Sean Easton admitted the Everyone Active Raiders made hard work of winning their first match in Romford’s new Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre.

Everyone Active Raiders prepare to take to the ice for their first match at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre (pic John Scott) Everyone Active Raiders prepare to take to the ice for their first match at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre (pic John Scott)

The home team came from behind in the final period to score four unanswered goals and beat bottom club Cardiff Fire in their National League contest.

And Easton was relieved to see his side skate off with the two points on an historic occasion, almost five years on from the last match played in the town at the since demolished Rom Valley Way rink, to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish this season.

He said: “We made hard work of the bottom of the league team, I don’t know whether it was nerves, with 1200 people watching, but we found a way to do it in the third period.

“I think there was pressure on who got the first goal. Everyone had been talking about who was going to score the first goal and for the first two periods we played like individuals.

A big crowd turned up to watch the first ice hockey match at Romford's new Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre (pic John Scott) A big crowd turned up to watch the first ice hockey match at Romford's new Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre (pic John Scott)

“It was a point race. They see Cardiff as ‘this is where I pick up my points’ but come the third period we actually started passing the puck and look what happens.

“They were selfish shots, bad angle shots, point-hunting all the time, the shots we took. If we took five less shots but passed the puck a little bit more it would have been a different story I guess.”

Cardiff’s Jackson Price wrote his name into the record books as the first-ever goalscorer at the new facility, when putting the visitors ahead with a shorthanded goal.

But Raiders – who wore commemorative jerseys similar to the old Romford club’s 1987 design – were back on level terms before the first break as Olegs Lascenko lifted the puck into the roof of the net from close range to send the big crowd wild.

Olegs Lascenko receives his man of the match prize from Andrew Rosindell MP (pic John Scott) Olegs Lascenko receives his man of the match prize from Andrew Rosindell MP (pic John Scott)

After a scoreless middle period, Cardiff regained the lead through Sam Bryant to suggest a shock might be on the cards, but Matt Turner equalised for Raiders, before Marek Nahlik put them ahead.

Brandon Ayliffe swept home Lascenko’s pass to net a fourth home goal, with Turner teeing up defenceman John Connnolly to seal a 5-2 win.

And Easton revealed there had been some adjustments made to turn things around, adding: “I can’t repeat the words, but there were strong words. We changed everything about.

“We changed our shirts, we never play well in one-off shirts, changed the lines around a little bit and I think that urgency of realisation we could lose here kicked in, so we stepped up a couple of gears.

“But we can’t keep winning games in the third period. That’s three in a row now where we’ve trailed into the third period and won.

“That can’t be the story every time. Eventually some team is going to shut us down.”

Despite the first match at the new rink not going exactly to plan, Easton did enjoy the evening and hopes it can be the start of a successful new era of ice hockey in Romford.

He said: “It was fantastic. It was nice to play in front of a proper Romford crowd, like it used to be. Loud, proud, had a good buzz to it, it was exciting.

“Everyone enjoyed it. If we can pack the house out every week, we’ll be a happy team.”

Raiders head to Streatham on Sunday, before playing their second match at the Sapphire against Swindon on Wednesday (7.45pm).

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