The Stars in 4D
Oxford City Stars have confirmed four of their mainstay defencemen have re-signed for the forthcoming season.
James Clarke, Sam Arnold, Tom Avery and Jake Florey have put pen to paper and will be icing in Oxford again in NIHL1 from September.
Clarke is a Stars stalwart, having completed 14 seasons of ice hockey in Oxford. His age has remained a closely guarded secret for many years, although he is officially listed as being 37. He wore the captain’s armband last season and is in the running again this season, with the club expected to announce the captaincy later in the summer.
Head coach Simon Anderson is happy to have Clarke in the mix again this season, “Clarkey is a great guy to have around the locker room: always smiling and really positive! After a tough start to last season, where he was maybe getting used to the step up whilst battling a pretty bad injury, he had a really strong second half to the season. I thought he became one of our better players and helped us achieve our goal of staying up. We will be looking for James to produce that form again and continue to lead by example.”
20 year old Florey will again be playing alongside his older brother Josh at Oxpens Road. Despite his age, Jake already has eight seasons of hockey behind him, having started out for the Oxford Junior Stars Under 16s in 2007. He was an ever-present fixture of the side last season, taking to the ice 33 times.
Anderson is looking forward to Florey coming of age this season, “After struggling a bit with fitness last season, Jake has been on a strict fitness plan and has really got himself in fantastic shape for next season, so all credit to him. He is a young guy with the ability and all the tools to be a solid top four D-man in this league if he keeps himself in good condition. He’s another great guy to have around the locker room and really liked by all the guys – I’m looking forward to seeing him develop this season.”
Sam Arnold is another Oxford man through and through. The 21 year old also began with the Junior Stars in 2007 and broke into senior side in the championship winning side in 2012/13. Despite his size, Arnold is a tough competitor and made the jump up to the top division of the National League quite comfortably, also featuring 33 times for the Stars.
Arnold’s potential is what Anderson is most excited by: “Like some others, Sammy again took a little time to get used to the rigours of NIHL 1, but I thought after a while became a fantastic D-man for us. For a little guy, he does not back down. He’s willing to listen and learn and we are really looking at Sammy step up to another level this year, and maybe break into being a regular top four D-man in our line-up, he certainly has the capabilities.”
Avery on the other hand is relatively new to the city of dreaming spires having signed last season. He spent a good spell of his early career at Bracknell and has also featured at Chelmsford Chieftans, Invicta Dynamos and Slough Jets, before becoming a reliable D-man for the Stars.
Anderson’s a big fan of what Avery brings to the side: “Tommy helped us so much last season. You could see the difference in our team at our back end as soon as he played his first game. He brings a calmness on the ice – he’s a smooth skater, moves the puck well and just calms the game down at times when we need it. He was probably the first D-man in our thoughts when looking at recruitment – getting quality D-men really is rare in this country right now and we are delighted to have him back for another season.”