Play-off Joy For Larter and Cornish

RYDE, UK – As Coach and Captain of the Wightlink Raiders, Jeremy Cornish and Damon Larter could not be more different, however this weekend they had one thing in common, they won the NIHL South Play-Offs thanks to a 9-6 aggregate victory over Invicta Dynamos.

Larter goes out in style (David Trevallion)

As the Wightlink Raiders celebrated on the ice in front of their fans in Kent tonight, one of the biggest smiles came from local boy and Captain Damon Larter who had led his side to an unlikely victory and their first play-off win since 2010.

“I can’t ask for more than to win like this to finish my career” admitted the 28 year old who first made his Raiders debut in 2001, and has been a mainstay of the team ever since.

“We came here and lost heavily last time, they have incredible firepower and with Phillips back on defence and Lee in goal we knew it was going to be tough”

“To come here and beat them is unbelievable. Normally we just have the mini bus driver, the kit driver and a couple of guys following us, so to have three mini buses and lots of guys coming across from the island to support us made all the difference”

“It was also great to see some Chelmsford fans, Streatham fans from other clubs coming along and I think we had a lot of goodwill from them and clubs across the league”

Larter will undoubtedly leave a big hole in the Raiders blue line when he hangs up his skates this summer, however he has his reasons for leaving.

“Work commitments and the tiredness that comes from hockey on a Monday morning are the main things really” he explained.

“I am going to do a little bit of coaching and give something back to the sport in the junior ranks and will keep supporting the Raiders of course”

Cornish and Dougie celebrate

In contrast to his Captain, Raiders Player Coach Jeremy Cornish grew up as an enforcer over in North America, but he has been quietly cementing his credentials as one of the most astute coach’s in the NIHL.

This is the second time he has masterminded his team to victory in the Play-Offs and when you throw in a league title, it shows just how much he has brought to hockey on the island, a place that was struggling to attract quality players before his arrival.

“I have to be honest I wasn’t that confident coming into tonight’s game with only one goal advantage” admitted Cornish.

“Invicta are a pretty offensive team and you just never know what you are going to get with them. Credit to my guys they just gutted it out and it was a weird game that could have gone either way tonight”

“We stuck together and we came into the play-offs in good form, we started the season terrible but then we brought it back round, finished fourth and whilst we got a bit of luck with Chelmsford going out, I think we have deserved this tonight”

Cornish was hit by an early blow in the first minute as star forward Alex Barker was carried off with a dislocated shoulder to add to the broken wrist suffered by Ben Paynter the previous evening.

“Well you know we had Stevie Balmer step in and did the business, he has done that a lot this year scoring goals at the right time. I can slot him in on any line and he does his job”

The win topped off a great weekend for the club as they secured a 15 year lease on the rink thanks to great work from a number of backers on the island. The rink was due to close last month but has now seemingly been saved and the Raiders with it.

This bodes well for the future and Cornish was as pleased as his captain that their fans turned up in numbers tonight.

“Yeah it was great, we saw them at the services on the way here and we were amazed because we haven’t been used to that, so it was great that they could all be part of it and I know the guys skating out at the start felt the difference as they heard the noise”

To read the NIHL South Play-Off final match report click HERE

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