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Invicta Dyamos beat Chelmsford Chieftains 11-9 on aggregate in the NIHL Southern play-off quater-finals

A thrilling play-off tie saw Invicta Dynamos make it through to next weekend’s finals - but it was anything but comfortable.

Invicta were up against Chelmsford Chieftains in the quarter-finals - a week after beating them in the Southern Cup final - and it proved to be another close-fought battle that the Medway side edged, winning 11-9 on aggregate.

Invicta Dynamos head coach Karl Lennon reflects on a tense weekend Picture: David Trevallion
Invicta Dynamos head coach Karl Lennon reflects on a tense weekend Picture: David Trevallion

Karl Lennon’s men took a 4-2 first-leg lead back to Gillingham on Sunday and led 3-0 on the night after the first period, 7-2 overall, before the Essex side staged a comeback - levelling the aggregate score to 9-9 before Invicta regrouped and won it with goals from Stanislav Lascek and man-of-the-match Rich Harris.

Lennon said: “It probably wasn’t a good one for my heart and the grey hairs in my beard but it was job done in the end, which we are really happy about, but we did make really hard work of Sunday night, especially.

“It wasn’t comfortable at all, not just for me, but for everybody, even my wife said afterwards she was screaming the whole game long and that’s not like her!

“The fans and the families all know what it means and we have been desperate to get to these finals because the club hasn’t done it for five years, in the 20th anniversary season. It felt like it had to be the way we closed our season out to get to that final weekend and thankfully we managed to do it.”

The Mos will head to Milton Keynes over the Easter holiday weekend for those finals.

Getting there wasn’t easy. At the Riverside, Chelmsford on Saturday the Mos didn’t start at their best, possibly suffering from a cup-final hangover having beaten the Chiefs the week before.

Lennon said: “We showed up missing three or four of our players due to work commitments or injury and that was not ideal. We were trying to manage that and we were a little short in terms of experience. We started pretty flat.”

Chelmsford led 2-1 at the end of the first period, with power-play goals.

Juraj Huska’s effort kept it to a single-figure deficit and Josh Condren levelled it up in the second before a short-handed goal put Invicta 3-2 infront through Owen Dell, capping a great response.

Dell scored again in the final period to give Mos the advantage heading back to Gillingham.

Lennon said: “We re-centred in that second period, played well, took two goals and shut them down. The guys knew how to play them, it was just muscle-memory and trying to repeat the week before. All credit to them they were excellent, they won their battles and took a lead into the third period and then we just had to manage the game out.

“We kept things tight, Owen Rider was excellent in goal, really kept them at bay with all of their threats and we came out with a 4-2 win which we were dead happy with. It was a job well done and when you are short of numbers you can’t ask for more than that really away from home.

“But as they always say in hockey a two-goal lead is the worst kind to have, and probably proved to be the case, with how we managed it.”

Man-of-the-match Richard Harris got three goals for Invicta Dynamos on Sunday Picture: David Trevallion
Man-of-the-match Richard Harris got three goals for Invicta Dynamos on Sunday Picture: David Trevallion

The Mos started well enough in Sunday’s return match, going three-up through Harris - back in the side after missing Saturday’s match with injury - Gregor McAllan and Tom Soar.

The second period was a different story as the Chiefs scored four while Huska and Harris replied. The aggregate score was 9-6 to Invicta going into the final period.

Three more goals from the Essex men levelled up the tie at nine apiece.

Lennon said: “We played really well first period, we were good with our intensity, good with purpose and took our opportunities when they came but the second period couldn’t have been further from that. We started slow, we still had chances but we didn’t take them and then they had a break and scored, then they scored almost immediately after and then I think panic set in from our side.

“All credit to Chelmsford, they were excellent, bearing in mind they were five goals down in the tie they really came at us in that second period and put us right under pressure. We put ourselves in a really difficult predicament.

"We still had a lead on the night when it came to the aggregate score going into the third period but it was uncomfortable.

“During the second period break I said to the players, ‘why are we doing this? We don’t need to be doing it’. We were taking too many chances on attacking plays, jumping into things that we didn’t need to do, and we really needed a bit of focus.

"Momentum had swung in their favour at that time it was really hard to break it. We started the third period poorly, I think nerves got the better of the players. They were very good, high on confidence and we called a time-out when they equalised on aggregate at 9-9. I said to them, ‘do you really want to go through this?!’

“From last week to this week it couldn’t have been farther from the performance that had been put in. We made a few changes to some of the lines, shortened them so we didn’t play as many players in those last 10 minutes, and thankfully it paid off.”

Lascek got the go-ahead goal for Invicta and then Harris completed his hat-trick with an effort to seal the deal.

“It was a beautiful solo goal and a great performance from him,” said the coach. “To score three on the night in a play-off quarter-final was quite exceptional. He had missed the night before with injury, he was playing through it and he did a great job.”

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