With the regular season done the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees lined up in the Britton Conference Play-Off Quarter Finals against the Raiders in a home and away series.
Raiders IHC 1 Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 1
Bees lined up missing Vanya Antonov, Josh Smith and Ryan Watt and found themselves down a goal after 182 seconds when Aaron Connolly scored. Bees pushed hard for the levelling goal and while chances came at both ends Bees dominated the shot count but still ended the first period down a goal.
Neither team could break the deadlock in the second period so it came to the third period to see if Raiders could start the second leg still ahead.
A hit from Mason Webster saw him called 2+10 for checking from behind and it was on this powerplay that Shaun Thompson finished from Edward Knaggs to level the game at 48.03. Raiders did give another powerplay for the final 34 seconds of the game when they were called for too many men but the game ended in a tie leaving all to play for in the second leg.
Raiders IHC: Connolly 1+0; Smith, Sedivy 0+1. Net: Gray (59.51) 41/1 & Empty Net (0.09) 0/0
Bracknell: Thompson 1+0; Knaggs, Stead 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 32/1
Period Scores: 1-0/0-0/0-1
Shots On Goal: 32-41
Penalty Minutes: 28-10
Referee: T Stephenson. Linesmen: O’Neill & Olczak
With a tied series being the starting position for the second leg the Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees returned to the Hive knowing a win would qualify them for the Semi-Finals in place of the Raiders
Berkshire Cycles Bracknell Bees 5 Raiders IHC 2
The game got underway with two officials as Stephen Matthews and Flynn Sitch-Cunningham would be joined later by Ali MacPhee.
Bees got off to a strong start, Michael Gray forced into an early reaction save and Tyler VanKleef ringing one off the post early on. Roman Malinik fed Edward Knaggs for a chance which Gray saved before then scoring the opening goal of the game when an Aidan Doughty shot came in “The Sheriff” was on hand to get the puck and direct it past the Raiders goaltender at 5.52. With just 17 shots in the period the end buzzer for the opening 20 minutes sounded with Bees leading 1-0.
A frenzy of action either side of the midway point of the game saw Bees effectively wrap up the game. Stuart Mogg had pinched in and executed perfectly at 29.14 with a powerplay strike. With the large Hive crowd still celebrating Harvey Stead made it 3-0 at 29.46 and a goal from Scott Spearing at 31.46 gave Bees a 4-0 lead. A couple of tense moments made the game closer with Raiders goals coming from Juraj Husak (36.10) and Jake Sylvester (37.37) to leave the visitors an outside chance in the third period.
Those outside hopes were effectively quashed at 49.09 when Tyler VanKleef scored a powerplay goal to make it 5-2 and restore a 3 goal cushion. The Raiders goaltender looked to be struggling by now but remained between the pipes pulling off a string of saves to prevent further scoring but eventually, the final buzzer sounded and Bees advanced to the Semi-Final after a complete team performance.
Bracknell: Malinik, Stead 1+1; Vankleef. Mogg, Spearing 1+0; Knaggs, Doughty, Painter, Sutton, Antonov, Z Milton, B Baird 0+1. Net: Skinns (60.00) 21/2
Raiders IHC: Huska, Sylvester 1+0; Chong, Barry 0+1. Net: Gray (60.00) 35/5
Period Scores: 1-0/3-2/1-0
Shots On Goal: 35-21
Penalty Minute: 8-8
Referee: S Matthews. Linesmen: F Sitch-Cunningham & A MacPhee
Speaking after the series win Bees Head Coach Doug Sheppard said; “This weekend we played with great intensity and we showed we can play how we need to at this time of year. We are beginning to hit our stride and that showed in all dimensions of our play.
For the guys to play in front of such a tremendous atmosphere was also a huge benefit. I hope our fans will bring the same again next weekend – we’ve proven throughout the season we are a match for the Wildcats and I believe it will be a tightly contested series with the chance of progressing to Coventry.”