Photo: Paul Foster
Darren Elliott – captain of the Oxford City Stars gives us his take to the season and takes ahead to the playoffs.
I think the seasons gone really well – we’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve which is a top four finish. The directors are really happy, Simon’s really happy, I think the players are really happy. But although we are happy as a team, I think we have also got an element of disappointment because if you take that 6 game losing streak that we went through before Christmas out of the mix – maybe even just getting a few points out of that then we would have been right up in the mix of the top 2 or 3.
Obviously that six game losing streak was a massive low point for the team, but we’ve picked ourselves up well since then. In terms of high points – I think what we’ve achieved off the ice this season has been massive. Filling the rink last weekend in our final game of the season against London was fantastic and gave us a great feeling ahead of the playoffs. I just think that the way that the club has developed this year has really been a massive high for us.
Steamy (Alan Green) has been a massive influence for us again and obviously his announced retirement is a big blow to the club. I also think that Dom Hopkins has been a huge signing for us. It’s been a long time since we have had a British D-man of his calibre. It’s great that we are becoming a club that can attract the likes of Dom and Jaro (Cesky). Jesse Lye hasn’t been around long with us, but he’s going from strength to strength and I think if we can keep him then next year he’ll be a really good player in this league.
Duffy has been a real standout recently – he has really stepped up to the plate and been massive in goal when he was called for. I think Jake Florey has also had a great season this year. He’s really got himself fit this season and it’s made such a difference. Unfortunately Joonas (Liimatainen) has been around as much as we would want him to be – but he’s a great player. He hasn’t been at his best for the last month or two and just needs a bit of a kick in the ass!
Looking ahead to the playoffs. I think it’s going to be a great first round game. We always used to fear London and I don’t think we do any more. I think this is a really good draw for us though – I don’t think we would have fancied MK as they have been a real bogey team for us, and Solent – it’s just so hit and miss. When you go to Solent you are just on the back foot straight away. So it’s a good draw for us – and it’s a great draw for the fans. They are a feisty team, they are bump and grind and chippy – so very similar to us. I think we’ve got to try and come back from Lee Valley at least a goal up so that we can really push hard in our barn and not be on the defensive. I think they’ll be pumped for it, we’ll be pumped for it and it will just be a fantastic series to watch. We’re missing Dax and Jaro which is a big blow, but I’m back, Whillock is back and Joonas should be back so we’ll have almost full squad. But they’ve got players like Lack who’s physically fit and can just skate all night long, so I’m not sure how much our bigger squad size will matter.
It will be a tough one to call, but we’re looking forward to it and we’re pleased that we’ll be going to London first and having the second leg at home this year. It’s a bit of a killer that if we get through this we’ll probably end up with Chelmo in the semis. Then again it would be really something to not beat them at all in the regular season and go and get a result in the playoffs! They are beatable – you just have to be 100% on your game to do it.
Oxford City Stars travel to Lee Valley to take on the London Raiders on Saturday 25th March – face off 5:30pm. They then host the return leg on Sunday 26th March – face off 6:15pm.