Hopkins Inspires Win Over Romford
As far as double-header weekends go across the NIHL, the Stars’ most recent one couldn’t have started with a more exciting match than the trip made by Oxford to Romford where they battled against the Romford Junior Raiders for the first time since the teams recent formation at the start of this season back in September. Making the trip to the next to brand new rink, the Stars knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task to walk away with the victory to kick off their 4-point weekend.
The first period saw the Raiders set up a good pace against the Stars, so much so that they ended with a goal lead going into the first intermission of the match. Soon after the initial face off of the evening, the Stars found themselves on the penalty kill after being struck with a bench penalty for too many men. The Stars defended well during this 2 minutes to prevent them from conceding a power play goal, however in a quick turn around, after an error leading to loss of possession in front of the net, the Raiders scored the opening goal not long after the Stars had returned to full strength. The goal was scored by Ewan Hill and he was unassisted in this. Later on in the period the Raiders earned a tripping penalty, giving the Stars a change to score on the power play and level up the scoring.
Unfortunately, due to the phenomenal efforts of the Raiders net minder, Bradley Windeback, who also continued to play excellently throughout the entire game, the Stars were unable to optimize the power play; they ended the period looking at a one goal deficit.
Heading back into the second period, the tone changed completely as they used this section of the game in order to put themselves in the lead. Before Oxford scored their first goal, there was a penalty on either side to which neither team scored any extra points during their time on the power play. At 36 minutes into the match, 15 into the period, Oxford netted their first goal, courtesy of Lee Richardson as the goalscorer and Tom Davis as well as Dom Hopkins with the assists. Not long after the first round of celebrations, the Stars scored a second goal a short 30 seconds shy of the end of the period. This second goal was scored by Josh Oliver with Darren Elliott to back him up with the assist. Unlike the ending of the first period, the ending of the second period saw the scoring leaning in the Stars’ favour with 2 goals to the one scored earlier on in the game by the home team.
Despite a narrow one-goal margin between the two teams, there wasn’t much action in the final period right until the very end. The first 18 minutes of the game saw a lot of end to end action with both teams playing well to keep the score as it was with the Stars retaining their goal lead for much of the period. This rapidly changed as the Raiders scored their second goal with a mere 1 minute and 40 seconds left to play before the final buzzer sounded. Everyone in the building knew the game was going to be pushed into overtime as soon as the goal light lit up behind Oxford’s Milan
With only a couple of minutes to spare between the end of the final period in regulation time and the start of over time, every fan, both Stars supporters and Raiders fans alike, was waiting in anticipation to watch the two teams fight it out in the race to be the first to score the golden goal. For anyone who isn’t entirely sure, NIHL overtime is structured as 5 minutes of 3 on 3 hockey with the first to score winning the match and triggering the end of the overtime section. With lots of open ice, both teams sought up and down the ice in attempts to get the puck past the opposing team’s net minder. Following an excellent set up and execution of carrying the puck from one end of the ice pad to the other, Dom Hopkins was the man of the hour as he tucked the puck past the Raiders net minder’s side and into the back of the net.