Match report: Oxford 6 – Swindon 4

A bumper crowd saw Oxford take on the local rivals Swindon in the league.  Despite early pressure from a talented Wildcats team packed with youngsters, Stars prevailed and won 6-4 to the delight of the 521 fans in attendance.  A brace of goals from man of the match Josh Florey and singles from Josh Oliver, Jake Florey, James Pentecost and Darren Elliot sealed the victory in this hard fought game.

The game started in blistering fashion and the Stars had to withstand a sustained period of pressure from Swindon who went on an all-out attack in the first period.  Swindon drew first blood with a powerplay goal from Glenn Billing after James Pentecost was penalised for charging.  The goal was scored after Ricky Young in the Oxford net made a first great save, but then was screened and unable to see the rebound before it was in the back of the net.  Oxford had several good chances during the first period but were unable to beat keeper Kevin McGurk in the Swindon net.

Stars came out hard in the second period, determined to even the score and did so with a powerplay goal from player-coach Darren Elliott.  During the powerplay, Oxford had done great work cycling the puck in the Swindon end and it bounced free for Elliott who fired it in with surgical precision to finally break the cling film on McGurk’s net.  Swindon thought they had regained the lead a few minutes later, but the goal was washed out as it had come in from a rebound following a hard shot to the face of Ricky Young.  Oxford took the lead themselves just after the halfway mark in the game with a great goal from Jake Florey.  James Pentacost won the face-off and passed back to Jonathan Bayliss in defence who dropped the puck across the blue line to Florey who fired a bullet of a slapshot, giving McGurk no chance.

Swindon called a timeout immediately after this goal and came out with renewed zeal forcing 2 fantastic saves from Ricky Young in the next shift.  However, Oxford were able to withstand this pressure and doubled their lead when Josh Oliver made a fantastic pass from inside the Oxford end to release James Pentecost on Swindon’s blue line.  Pentacost, Oliver and Jacob Smith then played tic-tac-toe with the puck in the Swindon end before Oliver lifted it over the keeper.

Oxford started the third period short-handed but were able to kill off the remaining 80 seconds of James Clarke’s tripping penalty – although Swindon had several good chances and forced two fine saves from Ricky Young in net.  Oxford then had a powerplay of their own which they were able to convert.  The goal came after Pentacost made a lovely pass to Josh Florey, he fired a slapshot from the blue line which flew past McGurk and into the top corner of the net.

At 4-1 up Stars might have thought the game in the bag, but Swindon had other ideas and pulled a goal back less than a minute later when a defensive error allowed Oxford old-boy Shannon Taylor to score.  They continued to pile on pressure and must have thought they had a good chance when Cox (tripping) and Jake Florey (slashing) gave them a 2-man advantage for 45 seconds.  Oxford were able to withstand the pressure and just a second before the second penalty was due to expire, James Pentacost was bundled down from behind on a breakaway and was rewarded with a penalty shot. He was unable to convert and with both netminders showing fine form, it looked like the game would be played out without any further additions to the score.

The two teams had other ideas though and instead treated the packed Oxpens Road to 4 goals in the final three minutes of the game! Oxford first restored their three goal lead with yet another bullet from the blue line – Josh Florey getting his second of the night after great work from Jonathan Bayliss and Darren Elliott. A minute later, Swindon pulled it back to 5-3 with Shannon Taylor getting a second when Ricky Young was screened and unable to see the shot coming in. With just a minute left in the game, Swindon gambled and pulled their keeper to allow an extra attacker on the ice. The gamble paid off as Shannon Taylor completed his hat-trick and Swindon pulled the game back to 5-4.  McGurk returned to the ice briefly, but was pulled again when Swindon won possession – they came close to evening up the game but with just 20 seconds left James Pentacost found himself with the puck on Oxford’s blue line.  He fired at the empty net and the puck went in to the delight of the Oxford crowd to seal the victory for the Stars and give Pentacost a debut home goal.

The result moves Oxford into second place in the league, equal on points with leader’s Slough who take the top spot due to having the result over Oxford.

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