Dramatic End To League Campaign Sees Stars Face London Rematch
Match Reports: Solent Devils vs Stars, Stars vs London Raiders
The Stars went into the season ending double-header knowing that they could finish as high as third and as low as fifth, depending on results. It was to be a dramatic weekend of hockey, culminating in over 1000 fans at Oxpens Road witnessing an equalising goal just ten seconds from the buzzer on Sunday night against London Raiders.
When all was said and done the Stars were able to celebrate an impressive fourth place finish for the second season in a row, and can now look forward to the play-offs starting with a 2-legged tie against Sunday night’s opponents London Raiders, details of which can be found here.
Here’s how the action unfolded:
Solent Devils vs Oxford City Stars – 11/03/2017, 17:00
Both sides were looking for the win to finish off the season with momentum going into the play-offs. The old adage of “you can’t win games from the penalty box” was never more apt as the Stars lost 4-3 in a closely fought battle in which they conceded 4 power play goals and had both Dax Hedges and Jaroslav Cesky ejected from the game.
Stars started the first period brightly with home netminder Chico Cole the busier of the two, so it was against the run of play when the home side took the lead, with Joe Edwards sitting a minor penalty for tripping, Drew Campbell carried the puck from his own half and fired a wrist shot past Mark Duffy in the Stars goal. Stars were lucky not to concede a second shortly afterwards as a defensive block saw the puck shoot down the ice to Richard Facey, who was unable to beat Duffy. Stars rebounded and within three minutes were back level as Alan Green fired home on the back post from a Dom Hopkins pass. Stars had chances to take the lead with a Green shot that was tipped over the bar by Cole but the period ended 1-1.
A raft of penalties interrupted any flow for the Stars in the second period. Whilst Ben Paynter was serving a penalty for slashing Solent regained the lead when Aidan Doughty poked home the puck after a scramble in front of the Stars net. Matt Lawday then increased the home sides lead as Brendan Baird sat a penalty for the Stars. Three minutes before the end of the period Hedges was assessed a match penalty for fighting after he took offence at some stick work from Cole and landed some hefty blows on the netminder. Cole seemed to retaliate with several swinging punches, but escaped the wrath of referee Belfitt. The Devils’ fourth goal was scored as Stars played the 5 minute penalty on Hedges by Mark Pitts after a miss-hit shot from former Stars player Mason Wild found him unmarked at the far post.
Stars started the third period on the offensive, despite still serving part of Hedges’ penalty, and a Baird back-hander from the blue line seemed to fool Cole as it found the back of the net. Five minutes later and the Stars were on the charge as they scored their third goal as Matt Jordan finished off a lovely passing move from Cesky and the hard working Ben Paynter. Cesky was then denied by officials as he collected a superb defence splitting pass from Paynter, only for him to be ruled offside. Frustration was growing within the Stars and this was further compounded when Cesky was adjudged to have checked a Solent player from behind and was ejected from the game, on a match penalty. Stars pulled netminder Duffy for the last minute to bring on the extra skater, but were unable to find an equaliser.
Final score: Solent Devils 4, Oxford City Stars 3.
Oxford City Stars vs London Raiders – 12/03/2017, 18:15
With one win each and one draw so far this season, both teams were keen to break the tie and to secure fourth place in the league; however, the stalemate would not be broken in this game either.
The Stars were without Cesky and Elliott, both having received match penalties at the game the night before, and played Mark Duffy in goal, with Logan Prince also getting some rare ice time.
The first period began in the best possible way, with Ben Paynter passing the puck to Jesse Lye for the Stars’ first goal less than 30 seconds into the game. After this start the Raiders took control of the puck and had a few shots of their own, including one from Andrew Munroe that Duffy caught in his hand, and one from Brandon Miles that sailed over the net; this one almost resulted in a goal as the puck came back to the net and was sat on by Duffy, a commotion following in front of the net. The Stars managed to get the puck and Hallam Wilson’s shot bounced off of the shin pads of Euan King in the Raiders’ net. Josh Florey took a shot that rebounded off the net posts; attempts followed by several other Stars players, the most notable being an effort passed from Lye to Joe Edwards, but it was saved by King. Following a few attempts by the Raiders, they got the first penalty of the game almost exactly halfway through the period, with Jack Cooper sitting out for slashing. Unusually, it was to be their only penalty of the entire match, the visitors being particularly well-behaved in this game. The home side were unable to take advantage of the Powerplay as 40 seconds later Wilson was sent to the penalty box for hooking. Shortly before the Raiders were back to full strength they scored their first goal, the puck dribbling into the net from a shot by Alan Lack, assisted by Slavomir Buda. Fired up, the Raiders had several more efforts but none of them reached the back of the net. As the period wound down Josh Oliver had a shot from far back saved by King. At the end of the first period the game was tied at one goal apiece.
The Raiders seemed to doze throughout the second period, with only 6 shots on goal compared to the Stars’ 18 on their net. Once again the Stars scored early on in the period, with Josh Oliver taking a pass from Alan Green around the back of the net and slipping the puck past King, less than 90 seconds into the period. In the next few minutes the home side were on fire, with shots following from Matt Jordan, Andy Cox and Wilson. The Raiders had a chance to even up the game when Buda skated unopposed to the Stars’ net, but Duffy saved the attempt. Following another shot by the visitors, which Duffy caught in his hand, fighting broke out, but it was quickly broken up and no penalties were given. Josh Oliver had a shot which King caught in his glove; a few seconds later Green increased the Stars’ lead with a goal assisted by Brendan Baird, this one surprising King who thought he had saved it. A minute later Baird passed the puck to Paynter, who slammed it into the net almost from the blue line. The Raiders, now down 1-4, called an immediate timeout, with half the match played. The home side continued their onslaught with shots from several players, including another from Green, which King managed to bat away with his body. The Raiders had a couple of chances but none of them resulted in a goal. With less than two minutes to go in the period Paynter sat out a holding penalty, and the visitors tried to take advantage of the Powerplay, but none of them could find a way past Duffy, who fell over in the net saving a last-ditch attempt as the period wound down.
The Raiders suddenly woke up in the third period, outshooting the
home side by 12-10 shots on goal. It was Jordan for the Stars with the first attempt to score, but King caught it easily in his hand. Lack then took a long shot that was caught by Duffy. In the next few minutes both teams tried to score without success. With twelve minutes left to play the home fans started to celebrate what seemed like a certain victory for their team, but what happened next turned things around, to the delight of the Raiders’ fans. Jason Ikin was thrown into the sin bin for high sticks, and just a few seconds later Baird joined him, receiving a boarding penalty. Down to 3 men, Hopkins managed to clear the puck from the Stars’ net, but Tom Davis took passes from John Connolly and Munroe and scored a Powerplay goal. Two minutes later they cut the Stars’ lead to one as Davis once again added a goal, this time from Stewart Tait and with a second assist from King all the way from the net. The Stars called a timeout, now sensing danger. Back in the game, they had several shots on goal, trying to increase the lead, but were hit with yet another penalty as Green was called in for slashing. The Raiders took a shot that bounced off the net post, and the Stars managed to clear the puck from the net, almost scoring themselves when a shot from Josh Florey ended up next to King, almost in the net. The Raiders stepped up their efforts as the clock ticked down; Duffy making an amazing save with his hand as the puck soared towards him. With 35 seconds left in the match the Raiders pulled King for an extra skater and this manoeuvre paid off, as the visitors tied the game with 10 seconds left, Lack with his second goal of the night, with an assist by Buda. There was nothing the Stars could do as they saw their 4-1 lead obliterated. The draw was enough to keep the Stars ahead of the Raiders in the league table, finishing in 4th with the Raiders in 5th, and setting up a repeat of the game for the upcoming playoffs.
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