Raiders will bring a slender lead back to Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre for the second leg of their play-off with Bracknell after a topsy-turvy battle in Berkshire on Saturday.
The two sides last met in the post-season 28 years ago, when Raiders skated to a thrilling 12-9 win over the Bees at the old rink in Rom Valley Way, led by Canadian heroes Marc Chartier and Gord Jeffrey.
And Raiders were celebrating again after a dramatic contest that saw the teams trade goals and the lead change hands.
Face-off was delayed by half an hour, due to an accident on the M25 delaying the arrival of the Raiders kit and equipment.
But the visitors, beaten 6-1 on their last visit earlier this month, were first on the scoreboard with barely five minutes played as Juraj Huska found the net and they doubled their advantage just 47 seconds later as JJ Pitchley netted against his former club.
The hosts hit back in the ninth minute through Josh Martin, who was adjudged to have scrambled the puck past Michael Gray by referee Stephen Matthews.
And Bees killed off successive minor penalties for having too many men on the ice, as well as a tripping call against Shaun Thompson before the first break to hold the Raiders lead at 2-1.
Bracknell were back on level terms six minutes into the middle session with a neat finish from George Norcliffe and a nice passing move led to the home side taking the lead with six minutes left in the period, as Danny Ingoldsby netted a delayed penalty goal, assisted by Norcliffe and James Galazzi.
Bracknell’s joy was shortlived, though, as Huska made it 3-3 just 31 seconds later and then turned provider to set up Jake Sylvester with just over three minutes left on the clock.
And Raiders moved 5-3 up just over a minute later as Olegs Lascenko set up Marek Nahlik to score.
Five minutes had been played in the final period when Callum Best got Bracknell back to within one goal, assisted by Martin and Thompson, but Raiders restored their two-goal cushion just three minutes later as some excellent play by Matt Turner set up Nahlik for his second of the night.
But in a rollercoaster of a match, Bees grabbed their fifth goal with 10 minutes remaining when Thompson struck on assists from Best and Jan Bendik.
And they went on the power play after Galazzi and Sean Barry clashed and the Raiders defenceman picked up an extra two minute penalty, before Gray was also called to hand Bees a 73-second spell of 5-on-3.
Raiders dug deep to survive their time shorthanded and then went on the power play themselves when Galazzi was called for roughing.
And although they could not capitalise with their extra man, they skated off with a win that gives them the upper hand heading into Sunday’s returning meeting in Romford.
Report courtesy of Lee Power of the Romford Recorder