Raiders pay the penalty as Stars snatch draw

London Raiders had to settle for a National League point in their first home match of the season, after Oxford netted a late penalty shot at Lee Valley.

Raiders came from two goals down in the first period to hold a 6-4 lead in the final session, only for Stars to give themselves hope with a fifth goal.

And Ondrej Pekarik converted a penalty shot with 60 seconds left to deny Raiders victory and ensure the understrength visitors claimed a share of the spoils.

JJ Pitchley was binned by referee Tom Stephenson with barely four minutes played for clipping and Stars struck on the powerplay to open the scoring, although there was an element of controversy about it.

Alan Green was credited with the goal, on assists from Pekarik and Michael Whillock, but there were some suggestions the puck hadn’t crossed the line.

Whillock reacted angrily to a hard hit from John Connolly, offering to drop the gloves, but the Raiders defenceman declined, only to see team-mate Pitchley called for cross-checking in the 12th minute.

The visitors doubled their advantage with another powerplay goal, scored by Jason Ikin on assists from Joe Edwards and Boris Ruzicka, but Stars goalie Shannon Long was then given a tripping minor, served by Logan Prince.

And Raiders got themselves on the scoreboard while enjoying a man advantage of their own as Connolly set up Pitchley for a cracking finish.

Oxford went to the lockerroom with a 2-1 lead, having outshot the home side 19-13, but Raiders were back on terms early in the second period as Marek Nahlik added to his two goals against Invicta a week earlier, following good work from debutant Ross Connolly and James Pentecost, who was facing his former club.

Raiders lost Bailey Chittock to an elbowing minor soon after, but Oxford saw Joshua Florey called for tripping and the home side went ahead during the spell of 4-on-4 as John Connolly and Thomas Beesley combined to set up Kamil Kinkor.

Tempers boiled over around the midway mark, with Jacob Ranson called for slashing and Oxford’s Ikin binned for holding, as Pitchley and Joshua Oliver were given roughing minors.

And Raiders went 4-2 up in the 33rd minute as Chittock found the net on assists from Beesley and Sam Roberts.

But Stars replied with a soft goal from Pekarik, whose shot went straight through Michael Gray in the 36th minute before Oliver was binned for boarding to give Raiders another powerplay chance towards the end of the session.

Raiders could not capitalise this time and conceded a fourth with 40 seconds left in the period, as Edwards levelled for Oxford from Oliver and Pekarik assists.

Then John Connolly was called for hooking within two minutes of the restart, handing Oxford an early powerplay chance in the final session.

But Raiders made light of their numerical inferiority as Ranson set up Pitchley for a shorthanded fifth, only for Julian Smith to be banished just 17 seconds later on a clipping minor.

But the home side killed off that penalty and then saw Oxford’s Josh Florey called for tripping, before moving 6-4 up on the powerplay through Nahlik, with assists to Smith and captain Tom Davis.

But Oxford raised hopes of their own with 10 minutes remaining as Ruzicka netted their fifth goal of the night, despite claims of interference on goalie Gray.

And the visitors called a timeout with 97 seconds left on the clock, before pulling Long in favour of an extra skater and earning a 6-on-4 chance when Ross Connolly was binned for interference.

Worse was to follow as John Connolly was adjudged to have knocked the Raiders net off its moorings deliberately, which saw Stephenson award Stars a penalty shot and Pekarik convert to level things up with 60 seconds to go.

Gray was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the aftermath, with his frustrations somewhat summing up the feelings among the Raiders ranks.

Scorers, Raiders: JJ Pitchley 2 Marek Nahlik 2 Kamil Kinkor 1+1 Bailey Chittock 1 John Connolly 0+2 Thomas Beesley 0+2 Sam Roberts 0+1 Tom Davis 0+1 Julian Smith 0+1 Ross Connolly 0+1 James Pentecost 0+1 Jacob Ranson 0+1.

Stars: Ondrej Pekarik 2+2 Boris Ruzicka 1+1 Joe Edwards 1+1 Alan Green 1+1 Jake Florey 1 Josh Oliver 0+1 Michael Whillock 0+1.

Penalty minutes: Raiders 26 Stars 12.

Shots faced: Michael Gray (Raiders) 46 Shannon Long (Stars, 59.40) 42.

Report courtesy of the Romford Recorder

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