BY CHRIS BEAL
Ben Paynter scored a winner 21 seconds from the end as Streatham resumed NIHL 1 South action after the Christmas break with a 3-2 home win against Solent Devils.
The heated rivalry between the pair, contesting championships over the last few seasons, has seen plenty of close games full of high drama and flashpoints. The large crowd gathered inside the High Road on Sunday were not to be disappointed.
The game got off to a dream start for the RedHawks. With only 38 seconds on the clock an early icing call had the Devils stuck in their own end. Vanya Antonov collected the puck down below the goal-line and centred it for Danny Ingoldsby, skating to the centre. He redirected it under Devils netminder Chico Cole to put the RedHawks ahead.
The Devils levelled with 10:01 on the clock. Ryan Sutton’s chance was saved by Tom Annetts but the puck came loose, Steve Osman sliding the puck into the open net.
Streatham captain Ryan Watt and Henry Aiken took interference penalties. But despite heavy pressure and a series of chances that should have seen the Devils go 2-1 up, the RedHawks’ penalty kill kept the Devils out as Tom Annetts made a series of spectacular saves. Aiken landed himself back in the box again at the 16-minute mark for an elbow.
Streatham regained the lead at 19:05. Watt and Jared Lane combined on a forward rush. Watt fed Ignotas Ragas the puck out of the bottom corner. Catching the puck mid turn, Ragas wristed it high on a tight angle into the top corner of Cole’s net.
Devils made it 2-2 in the second period. Annetts made the save off a shot by Alex Cole but Steve Osman seized on the rebound to set up Ryan Sutton with an empty cage.
The final period saw the game on a knife-edge, descending into a series of turnovers and giveaways in the neutral zone.
Games between Solent and Streatham always deliver high drama, and the final minute didn’t disappoint.
With the clock ticking down, and the rink PA announcing the prospect of overtime and a shootout, Streatham pushed looking for a winner.
Danny Ingoldsby was hauled down in a desperation play by Steve Osman of Solent to stop a scoring chance, gifting Streatham a powerplay.
With 40 seconds on the clock, the next face off was vital.
Streatham won the puck, and cycled it around until it found Ryan Watt up high by the blue line. He released a shot on net that was redirected in mid-air by Ben Paynter past Cole.
Solent called a timeout and pulled Cole for the extra attacker but despite gaining control of the puck off the face off the Devils could not turn the possession into offensive chances.
Streatham player-coach Ben Paynter said: “It was hard, and we took a while to find our feet after a long Christmas break.
“We played not bad in the first, could have been better in the second and in the third we held on and managed to get it done. We all dug deep, and Watt made a great shot for the tip and Danny did great to draw that penalty.”
Forward Ziggy Beesley said: “It was a good game. We made quite hard work of it, we lost the second period and ground it out in the third. It was good to have some time off for Christmas, but now it’s back to the hard work.Tonight was a must-win game, because that cushion between us and Solent gives us that extra confidence.”
Captain Ryan Watt added: “Maybe it wasn’t the prettiest game, but what a feeling winning with 21 seconds left. Good teams always find a way, even when not at their best.”
The win puts Streatham six points clear and also seals the season series against the Devils 3-1, putting things very much in their favour in the race for the league championship.
Streatham have a weekend off to rest before they travel to Milton Keynes on January 22, before welcoming Romford on January 29 to round out the month.
MAIN PICTURE: KIERAN HALLIDAY (KHalliday_Photography)
OTHER PICTURES: STREATHAM HOCKEY
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