National League: Raiders 6 MK Thunder 1
PUBLISHED: 20:12 10 March 2018 | UPDATED: 20:12 10 March 2018
Raiders moved back up to fourth place in the National League table after hitting Milton Keynes for six at Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre on Saturday.
And they will complete their 32-game schedule with a trip to Milton Keynes on Sunday, while rivals Bracknell host Swindon in their final fixture before the two sides meet in the play-offs next weekend.
Raiders were without Ollie Baldock but JJ Pitchley sent an early shot off the crossbar, before a holding penalty against Brandon Ayliffe gave the visitors the first power play of the night.
Michael Gray made a good save from Rupert Quiney’s big shot from the point, before Jake Sylvester made space for himself at the other end only to send a weak shot at Joshua Crane.
Ayliffe was hooked by Tom Mboya as he looked to break clear and Raiders went on the power play, with Juraj Huska smashing a slapshot wide, before Marek Nahlik’s wristshot was saved by Crane.
Jamie Line fired high over the net from Quiney’s drop pass, before Raiders opened the scoring as Matt Turner’s shot was saved and Thomas Beesley turned in the rebound.
And Line was then binned for tripping in the closing stages of the first period, giving Raiders another extra-man advantage before the break.
Ross Bowers countered for shorthanded Thunder, but good work from John Connolly denied him a shooting chance.
Thunder lost Grant McPherson to a 2+10 misconduct penalty early in the middle session and Raiders doubled their advantage as Nahlik tapped in a loose puck following good work from Olegs Lascenko to claim his 100th goal in a gold and blue jersey.
Another hooking call against Mboya was killed off by the visitors, but Raiders went 3-0 up when Nahlik sent a low shot past the glove hand of Crane.
And the home side added a fourth when captain Tom Davis sent a quick shot on the turn in from the boards and saw the puck bank into the net off the unfortunate Crane.
Thunder lost Quiney to a holding the stick penalty, with Pitchley working his way goalwards and testing Crane with a wristshot.
But Ayliffe was then binned for slashing, giving Thunder a power play chance, and Gareth O’Flaherty fired a first-time shot over the crossbar, before Gray denied Hallden Andrew Barnes-Garner with a good low glove save.
Ryan Handisides then pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and worked himself an opening to force a pad save from Gray, before Thunder opened their account with just nine seconds left on the clock as Ross Green sent a low wrist shot through a crowd to beat Gray.
And they went close to a second early in the final period as Handisides sent the puck towards Mboya, whose redirection was saved by the alert Gray.
Ayliffe did well to tee up Davis, whose shot was blocked, before Gray denied two attempts from McPherson, and Pitchley sent an angled shot wide after skating out from behind the Thunder net.
Raiders went 5-1 up, though, on a delayed penalty call as Jake Sylvester jumped on to the ice to replace Gray and fired a shot home from the blue line.
And they added a sublime sixth as Turner skated down ice showing great stick and puck control before flipping a backhand shot past Crane.
Victory lifted Raiders one point above Bracknell in the race for fourth place with a return trip to Milton Keynes to come on the final day of the regular season on Sunday.
And another win will see them finish above the Bees, who host Swindon in their last match ahead of a two-legged play-off battle with the Raiders next weekend.