Stars Grab Slender Lead In Play-off First Leg
MATCH REPORT: Bristol Pitbulls Vs. Stars, playoff quarter final first leg
This past Saturday the Oxford City Stars travelled all the way to Oxford Ice Rink to play the Bristol Pitbulls in the ‘away’ leg of their play off quarter finals. The City Stars fans took their seats in the rather unfamiliar away stand as the Stars took to the ice in their away kit, which was odd to say the least.
The boys, from both teams, left their sticks on the team benches during their introductions as well as during a moments silence as everyone paid their respects to the ones who lost their lives in the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. Following the fitting tribute, the anthem was played, the players picked up their sticks and got ready for the game ahead. Right from the get-go, the Stars started strong as they dominated the opening minutes of the game. A good amount of shots were made on the Pitbulls goal without any of them making their way past netminder, Ross Miller, and into the back of the net. However, saying this, Oxford’s efforts were far from fruitless as they scored a mere 5 and a half minutes into the opening period – the goal coming from Josh Oliver, Joe Edwards and Dom Hopkins. Aside from this lone goal not much else happened other than a couple of penalties being dished out to both sides.
The tables turned completely with the opening of the second period. The Pitbulls made a furious attempt in pulling the game back into their court. They managed to pull this off with great success less than two minutes into the 2nd leg of the game. The Pitbulls were able to score 2 goals literally 22 seconds apart from each other. The first goal was scored by Giacomo Raffaelli and the second goal was netted by Sam Shone. This quick turnaround saw the Pitbulls take the lead up until the remaining few minutes of the second period. Needing to answer the goals that Bristol scored, the Stars dug deep to amp up the pressure to score goals in both the 37th and 39th minutes of play; Conor Redmond being the one to score the first of the two goals in this period and Dom Hopkins scored a wonderful blue liner shot to take the Stars back into the lead just before the period came to a close.
The third period became a hard fought affair as Bristol were looking to retain their lead by getting the puck in the back of the net a couple of times and the Stars were looking to maintain their lead until the final buzzer sounded. 12 minutes into the period and the Pitbulls were able to level the playing field with only 8 minutes left to play. With both teams fighting tooth and nail to win the initial leg of the play off first round, it was Oxford who came out on top. Matt Lawday, with an assist from Josh Florey, ensured that the Stars walked away with the win that allowed them to take one step closer towards the semi finals in Bracknell and ultimately making a clean sweep and winning the play offs as well.
With a final score of 4 goals to 3, it put the Stars in a good position for their home leg of the quarter finals.