BY CHRISTOPHER BEAL
Streatham secured their third successive NIHL 1 South title after defeating Slough Jets 3-2 on Sunday in a close encounter at the High Road.
After a 6-2 win in Slough the night before the RedHawks only required one point the following evening after rivals Solent Devils lost in a shoot-out to the Romford Raiders.
Streatham have secured a spot in the national play-off final in Coventry on April 15, most likely against the Solways Sharks, who need one point to seal the Northern league title.
Jets took the lead just before the end of the first period. Kyle Bradburn and Jacob Soper linked up with the latter applying the finish.
Jacob White-Sey set up Lewis English to put Slough 2-0 up just five seconds before the first intermission.
Head coach Ben Paynter must have given his Streatham squad the Sir Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment in the locker room as the RedHawks began to apply effective offensive pressure in the second.
That paid off after 28 minutes. Tomasz Skokan and Vanya Antonov provided the set up as Scott Bailey’s long-range shot found its way through a screen and past Jets netminder Brett Massey.
Jets almost scored a third, Lewis English seized on a rebound off Tom Annett but Streatham’s D piled bodies into the crease area to stop the puck getting through.
The heroics in defence turned into heroics in offence after 37 minutes.
Jack Hoppes fired a shot from the blue line and although Massey made the save, Thomas Beesely fired the rebound into the net from point-blank range to tie the game at 2-2.
Streatham had allowed Slough to play the speed game. Now in the third the hosts played the body, laying bodychecks to open up space.
The tactic paid off. Jared Lane and Danny Ingoldsby bodychecked their way through the Jets defence in the 43rd minute.
Massey was caught at the near post but Lane slid it across the net to a waiting Ingoldsby, who one-timered the puck into the goal to put Streatham ahead 3-2.
What followed was the tensest 17 minutes of hockey on the High Road all season as Streatham looked to secure an advantage with Massey forced to make save after save.
Lewis English went close to scoring, forcing a desperation save from Annett that saved the game for Streatham.
Paynter said: “We put ourselves in a difficult situation. We didn’t have the best first period, going down 2-0 in the first. We got it done, managed to win the second 2-0, won the third 1-0. Good teams find a way, we’re a good team – league champions. We got it done.
“The reason we play is to win trophies. We don’t play at this level for money, we play at this level for the enjoyment of winning trophies and being competitive. To be able to retain our title is hard to put in to words. We’ve got such a good group, a good core, that we’ve managed to keep this going for three years. Hopefully long may it continue. We’re just going to enjoy it now and roll on to the play offs.”
Ben Ealey Newman said: “It was a good game. Slough came hard. The mood was a little light from us beforehand. But coming out in the second and the third we took it to them. And then three unanswered goals won it for us. We played a good defensive game, they threw everything at us towards the end. We defended well and it was good to get the job done.
Brandon Miles said: “The last few times we’ve played Slough they are better than the scores have predicted. They came out hard tonight, they put us behind. So we had to really show some passion and some pride and come out and pull it back to win as a team like the champions we are.
“We knew the first wasn’t good enough, we had to regroup and come out and go for it, as we had to win the game.”
Up next on the High Road for Streatham is Oxford City Stars on Saturday March 18.
PICTURES: MEL O’BRIEN/FUSIONAL
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