Stars Top League After Dramatic Overtime Win Against Guildford
Match Report: Oxford City Stars vs Guildford Phoenix, 12/11/2017
Following a comfortable victory away to Haringey Huskies the previous night, the stars went into Sunday’s game knowing that a win would secure a 4 point weekend and would cement their place at the top of NIHL Wilkinson Division.
It was the Oxford City Stars’ second match against the Guildford Phoenix, the Stars winning 7-1 in their previous meeting, but with the Phoenix currently enjoying a run of good form, Stars coach Kenny Redmond knew the score was likely to be tighter this time, and so it proved to be, with a dramatic finish ensuring the game went into overtime.
The Stars managed to get the puck from the initial face off in the first period, and it started off close, with both sides trading chances to be the first to score. Oliver Denis for the Phoenix had an early chance but was stopped on the way to the net, with Joshua Abbott the next to try. In between, Michael Whillock took up the cause for the home side. Just under 5 minutes into the game Samuel Calder, in net for the Phoenix, skated to the bench for a delayed penalty call, hoping to give the visitors a chance with an extra skater, but the whistle blew before he got there. With Joshua Oliver sitting out for elbows, the Phoenix had several shots on Milan Ronai in the Star’s net, but the penalty expired without incident. Twelve minutes in Whillock took a shot which rebounded off Calder’s shin pads; he then tried again with the rebound but it wasn’t successful. Abbott and Malik Adeniran-Adams both had chances on the visitors’ side and the puck was then taken up by Kinkor, who passed to Dax Hedges, but the Stars’ shots deflected off Calder’s shin pads. With both sides trading chances again it was the Phoenix who got the first goal with 7 minutes left to play in the first period; Andrew Hemmings passing the puck from the corner of the rink to Abbott, who slotted it into the net. Oliver and Jake Florey both had a go to equalise but didn’t manage to score. They then found themselves on the back foot with their 2nd penalty; this time Hedges was thrown in the sin bin for cross-checking. The Phoenix once again didn’t manage to take advantage of their power play. With a minute to go in the period Oliver passed the puck to right in front of the opposing net but unfortunately there was no one there to pick it up, and as the whistle blew for the end of the period the score was 1-0 to the Phoenix.
As the second period began, the Stars found themselves in unfamiliar territory, being a goal down, and things were about to get worse as the Phoenix doubled their lead less than 30 seconds into the period, Bailey Wootton with this goal with an assist from Denis. Conor Redmond had a go for the Stars but once again it was Calder trying to skate off for an extra player as a delayed penalty was awarded. Again he didn’t get there in time and this time it was Jake Florey who left the ice for a slashing penalty. A few minutes after the end of the penalty, Hemmings had the puck and was knocked down on the way to the net by Martyn Gray, who made it the Stars’ fourth penalty in a row as he sat out for kneeing. The Stars soon found themselves two men down as Redmond was handed one for interference. With a two player advantage the Phoenix took a number of shots on Ronai but the Stars managed to clear the puck from their end of the ice with no further damage. Whillock tried to pass to Kinkor for a goal but was unsuccessful, and Gray had a long shot saved by Calder. No goals resulted but instead yet another penalty, as Oliver sat out for charging. Despite this it was the Stars who had the momentum and Whillock, Hedges and Josh Florey tried to get one back from the home team but to no avail. With 2 ½ minutes to go in the period the Phoenix finally incurred a penalty, on Henry Aiken for boarding, but it was them with the biggest chance as the period wound down; Wootton managing to get the puck and skating unopposed to the Stars’ net, but Ronai managed to hit the shot away and the period ended 2-0 in favour of the visitors.
The Stars must have had a stern talking to in the period break as they came out in the third period all guns blazing, easily outshooting the Phoenix 22-3 in this period after being behind in the other two periods. Jake and Joshua Florey were amongst the players with early chances but Calder faced a flurry of shots, all of which he managed to stop. Then, the Stars were hit by another penalty. With Redmond out for slashing, the Phoenix must have fancied their chances to put the game totally out of reach of the home side, but remarkably it was the Stars who struck first; Kinkor had a shot and as Calder fell over in the net saving it, Jake Florey hammered the rebound in for a short-handed goal. Coincidental penalties were given shortly after; on Wootton for the Phoenix and Whillock for the Stars, both for cross-checking. Gray had a subsequent shot caught in the hand of Calder. Kinkor set Oliver up for the perfect shot and the crowd started to cheer as it looked like it couldn’t miss, but Calder managed to batt it away. A further penalty on Aiken for holding the stick put the home side on a power play, but chances by Kinkor, Whillock, Hedges and Dominic Hopkins, the visitors managed to kill the penalty successfully. Denis was then called to the penalty box for slashing, and the process began again, but with no goals scored the Stars called a time out with seconds left on the penalty. They kept up the onslaught, a notable shot by Oliver bouncing straight up into the air after hitting Calder’s shin pads, but it looked like they had left their charge too late. But then, with 25 seconds left in the game, Ronai skated off and made way for a 6th skater and with just 10 seconds left on the clock Whillock fired a shot into the Phoenix’s net, assisted by Kinkor, and the fans went wild. 2-2 after 60 minutes, and the excitement overtime beckons for the first time at Oxpens Road this season.
A period of 3-on-3 overtime began, where the first team to score a ‘golden goal’ would be declared the winners, and it was to be the Stars who carried on where they had left off only moments before, as Kinkor scored the game-winning goal 30 seconds into overtime. He was assisted by Hedges and Whillock and the rink erupted into a cacophony of cheers as the game ended and the Stars were declared the victors, after having spent most of the game behind. The Phoenix could be happy with their point from an overtime loss, but the Stars will be happier having come away with 2 points from a game in which they were largely outplayed, giving the Oxpens Road something special to cheer about, and perhaps showing why they’re top of the league.
Final score Stars 3 Phoenix 2.