Stars Edged Out In Nine Goal Thriller
In an almost perfect season so far for the Oxford City Stars, the game against the Bracknell Hornets back in September marked the only blot on the Stars’ copybook, a result they were anxious to avenge, especially with the Hornets close behind them in the league standings. But the Hornets proved too difficult to beat, coming out as the victors in a closely-fought game that was full of excitement.
The Stars started as the better team, winning the initial face-off and Matthew Lawday passing the puck immediately to Joshua Florey for the first shot. The Hornets managed to get the puck after this and chances followed from several players, most notably Harvey Hind-Pitcher and Adam Bicknell, but things soon turned back in the home side’s favour, with chances from Jake Florey and Martyn Gray. Three a half minutes into the game came the first goal, and it was the Stars celebrating, as Josh Florey passed the puck to Lawday, who found the back of the net. Daniel Hughes for the visitors had the next shot but the puck went back under the control of the Stars, with Michael Whillock and Conor Redmond trying to double the score. The Hornets seem to have mistaken Whillock for the puck, and he was bundled into their net. A penalty resulted on the Hornets, and Matt Jordan sat out for holding. The home fans were hopeful of a power play goal to double the lead, but a shot by Dominic Hopkins hit the net post, and Joshua Oliver’s shot also missed. When the penalty had expired both teams had further chances. Whillock was tripped on the way to the net and the Hornets took their second penalty, on William Stead for tripping. The Stars had several shots whilst on the power play, from a bunch of players including Josh Florey, Oliver, Redmond and Whillock, but once again were not able to take advantage of the extra man. They kept up the pressure after the Hornets had killed the penalty, but without success. With five minutes left to play in the period Tony Barclay got hold of the puck and skated unopposed to Milan Ronai in the Stars’ net, but he scooped the puck up. Hughes and Sean Scarbrough had shots after this but the visitors were not able to score. As Josh Florey aimed a shot towards the Hornets’ net, netminder James Richardson saved it but the puck dribbled out of his hands and almost went back into the net. As the period came to a close there were chances by the Hornets but the whistle blew with the Stars up 1-0.
After such a good start to the game the Stars were caught napping in the second period, with the Hornets taking almost double the number of shots as the home team, 18 to 10. Hughes was the first with a shot on Ronai but it was followed up by chances from other players such as Cameron Barker and Benjamin Ealey-Newman. The latter player was given a penalty four minutes into the period, for tripping, and the Stars players took turns trying to score, the most notable effort being Oliver trying to get the puck around the back of the net and past Richardson. After the penalty Hughes was active again, his shot being hit away by Ronai’s elbow. Oliver incurred a kneeing penalty, the Stars’ first penalty of the night, a few minutes later. After three Stars’ power plays with no goals, the Hornets only needed eight seconds of their first power play to score, with Ben Ealey-Newman taking a rebound shot from Jack Tarczycki. The goal seemed to bring the Hornets to life, and two and a half minutes later, after further shots from Steven Fisher and Joshua Ealey-Newman, Tom Fisher put the visitors ahead, with assists from Stead and Barclay. A long shot from Jack Hayes was caught in Ronai’s hand, and with the Stars behind they doubled their efforts, resulting in a goal from Whillock just over halfway into the period, with assists from Redmond and Jake Florey. A couple of minutes later the Stars were caught out by a penalty for too many men on the ice, which was sat out by Lawday. This time they successfully killed the penalty but six seconds later Scarbrough fired another goal past Ronai, assisted by Steven Fisher and Hind-Pitcher. The period ended with chances from both teams but it was the Hornets who ended the period on top, with a 3-2 lead.
The home fans were hopeful of an early goal from their team to tie the game once more but they were left disappointed as the Hornets scored two goals in the first two minutes of the period- Barker from Ben Ealey-Newman and Bicknell from Carl Graham and Josh Ealey-Newman. Having seen the close game disappear into a 2-5 deficit, the Stars called an immediate time-out. And it worked, as a couple of chances from Kamil Kinkor lead were followed up by a shot from Oliver, that was angled upwards and slammed into the net, with an assist from Lawday. As momentum of the puck swung first towards one team and then the other, a tripping penalty on Steven Fisher seven minutes into the period gave the home fans the chance they had been waiting for. However, they were left disappointed once more as the Stars passed the puck between players but no goals resulted. Halfway into the period a close shot looked like it had found its target, but as the fans stood up to cheer, they realised that it had missed the mark. With ten minutes left in the game and the Stars trailing by two goals Stewart Tait took his frustrations out and was given a hooking penalty. It was probably the worst time to have incurred a penalty, and the Hornets tried to add to their tally, but luckily their efforts to score came to nothing. Kinkor managed to get the puck and took it around the Hornets’ net, but it was saved. With six minutes left to go Kinkor was right in front of the net and was set up with a pass that he could have taken advantage of, but he missed the pass, the home fans groaning in response. In the next four minutes the momentum of the game was firmly with the Stars, who had numerous shots from Whillock, Jake Florey, Kinkor and Hopkins. With two and a half minutes left and the Stars still two goals behind they took Ronai out of the net in favour of a sixth skater, and the move paid off as Kinkor finally scored, with Lawday and Whillock assisting. As both sides started to shove each other a penalty was called on the Stars’ Alexander Staples for boarding, and it looked like it was all over, but after some discussion he was joined in the sin bin by Ben Ealey Newman, who took a 2 + 10 penalty for the visitors for checking from behind. With Ronai back in goal he caught a shot from Steven Fisher and as the puck went the other way Ronai came off once again, but with less than a minute to go in the game the Hornets called a time-out, and there was not enough time for the Stars to equalise, the Hornets getting a deserved victory.
Final score Stars 4 Hornets 5.