Oxford Overpower Swindon In Close-Fought Victory
Last time the Swindon Wildcats’ second team played the Oxford City Stars, they lost 2-9, and many were expecting a similar washout this time around, but the Wildcats put on a good show, leading to a much closer game than anticipated.
With both of the Stars’ regular netminders Milan Ronai and Mark Duffy injured, Jamie Thompson started in goal and was tested immediately as the Wildcats shot the puck towards him. Kamil Kinkor for the Stars then managed to get the puck right in front of Michael Crisp in the Wildcats’ net, but he missed the shot. A further chance by Matthew Lawday was then caught in Crisp’s hand. With subsequent chances by both sides, most notably Harry Harrison for the Stars and Loris Taylor for the Wildcats, it was the opponents who got on the board first, just over 4 minutes in, with Adrian Dusznik finding the back of the net with an assist from Haydn Lee. Less than a minute later Lawday passed to Stewart Tait; the shot missed, but the rebound was directed in and the score was tied- both teams’ first goals coming from players with the number 19. As the game continued it was the Stars with most of the chances, outshooting the Wildcats by 23 shots to 9 in the first period. Theo Bundock was close, as was Christopher Leykam for the opposing team. Almost 7 minutes into the period the first penalty came, and it was called on the Stars’ Jake Florey for cross-checking. With the man advantage the Wildcats tried to take the lead once again but they were not successful. A long shot for the Stars bounced off Crisp’s arm, and this was followed by a chance from Dax Hedges and a pass from Bundock from behind the net to Kinkor in front of it. Just under 12 minutes in Hedges had another shot and it missed, but Joshua Oliver netted the rebound, with assists given to Harry Harrison and Darren Elliott. As play switched from one side to the other the Wildcats were given a penalty with 5 minutes left to play in the period, with Lee thrown in the sin bin for interference. Kinkor, Tait and Alexander Staples tried to put the Stars further ahead but the penalty expired without incident. With 42 seconds left Kinkor passed the puck to Oliver but the shot missed; the Stars could be forgiven for thinking they had gone into the first break ahead of their opponents but with 0.6 seconds to play Harvey Robson slotted a pass from Dusznik past Thompson and the game was tied.
The second period began with the Stars trying to go ahead, with shots from Michael Whillock and Kinkor amongst others; Taylor had a chance up the other end for the visitors and 2 minutes into the period they went ahead courtesy of a goal from Adam Coakley, with Leykam and Taylor getting the assists. Less than a minute later Kinkor sat out for interference, and with the Wildcats on a power play they capitalised by scoring another goal, this time Leykam from Robson and Taylor. The Stars now found themselves in unfamiliar territory, down 2 goals against a team languishing near the bottom of the league table. Taylor could have put the opponents even further ahead when Thompson was out of the Stars’ net, but the rebound shot thankfully missed the net. Andrew Cox took the puck to the other end and almost scored on his rebound, and then it was the home side’s turn to have a power play, with Leykam called out for tripping. Dominic Hopkins’ shot missed the goal but soon after his next shot was successful, scoring almost back from the blue line, with Whillock assisting. The home fans could smell victory but were momentarily distracted by one of the linesmen falling over on the ice and Martyn Gray tumbling into him, to much amusement. Hopkins had another chance, trying to level the game, but instead the Wildcats restored their 2 goal lead almost halfway through the period, Taylor slotting in a rebound from Nathan Chilcott, with a second assist from Lee. Elliott managed to get a breakaway and it looked like he might claw one back for the Stars, but unfortunately his shot missed the net. However soon after Taylor was put away for boarding and it only took 17 seconds of the power play for the Stars to score, with Kinkor sliding the puck past Crisp from right in front of the net, assisted by Hopkins. For the next few minutes both teams took turns with the puck and with 5 minutes left in the period Cox passed to Oliver and it resulted in a goal. With the score now equal once again the home fans were on edge as Florey incurred a hooking penalty with 4 minutes left, and 30 seconds later the puck ended up in the Stars’ net, but the fans breathed a sigh of relief as the goal was disallowed for netminder interference. A further penalty on the Stars’ Hedges at the end of the period for interference had no further affect upon the score and as the end of period whistle blew, it was once again a tied game, this time at 5-5.
Going into the third period the Stars knew that they had to pull out all the stops for the victory, and they had a few shots on goal in the first few minutes, the most notable one from Kinkor, which bounced off Crisp’s shin pads. Dusznik tried to restore the visitors’ lead but it was not to be. With the Stars on the attack a shot from Gray to Tait came close but was at slightly the wrong angle. Seven minutes in Kinkor put the Stars ahead with an assist from Hedges, but the celebrations were short-lived as less than a minute later Daniel Sullivan netted for the Wildcats, Laykam with the assist. The opponents were on the offensive and had several more shots. Halfway into the period both side incurred coincidental penalties, Elliott for slashing on the home side and Robson for holding for the opponents. Kinkor managed to take the puck right up to the Wildcats’ net but he was stopped and found himself sliding into the net instead of the puck. A Hopkins long shot was saved and despite further chances by the Stars, a slashing penalty for Kinkor with just over 6 minutes left made the home fans nervous. However, the Stars were determined to win the game and a short-handed goal by Oliver, his hat-trick goal, meant the momentum was now firmly with them. They called a timeout and came back with further chances but it wasn’t all their way as the Wildcats had their own shots, most notably one from Robson. Elliott tried to put the game out of the Wildcats’ reach but with less than a minute to go the opponents called their own timeout and it was to no one’s surprise when Crisp didn’t rejoin the game, the team opting for an extra skater to try and force the game into overtime. However, Hedges managed to take the puck from the Wildcats and with the fans cheering he scored an empty net goal with less than 24 seconds to go, putting an end to the Wildcats’ hopes. They played well but in the end the Stars were too strong for them.
Final score: Stars 8 Wildcats 6.