Category: Match report – First thoughts

October 4th, 2015 by Nancy Carpenter

As a neutral, we reckoned that Streatham Redskins hosting Invicta Dynamos would be the game of the day, and probably the game of the weekend in the NIHL South. So we decided to make the trip to south London to go and watch and do some live tweeting. I have to say we were not disappointed, both teams put on a tremendous display of hockey and what we were treated to was a passionate, thrilling game with some great hockey.

Except for a lull early on in the second period, the game was played at a break-neck pace with both teams showing a real desire to prove themselves as serious challengers for the league trophy. There were big hits, a brawl and some very skilful play.  The two goals in 7 seconds for Invicta was a heart-breaker for Streatham who I thought looked marginally the better team throughout the game.

So positives and negatives for the teams… let’s start with hosts Streatham:
What struck me most about Streatham is the depth in the team – they have three very strong lines. Last week their new import Kinkor looked excellent, but this week he was a bit more anonymous – that’s not to say he didn’t play well it’s just that quite a few of the British lads really caught the eye.  Joe Allen’s short-handed goal was a real thing of beauty – he jumped on a loose puck on the centre line, forced his way past an Invicta d-man up the boards, cut in while still under serious pressure from the d-man and then managed to keep his balance, move McGill off centre and pull the puck around him. Other Streatham players who caught my eye were Adam Wood and Steve Fisher who looked dangerous on and off the puck and Evander Grinnell who just seemed to be everywhere, always involved and with an unbelievable work-rate.

On the downside for Streatham – well it has to be discipline.  They had way to many silly penalties and in the end it may have cost them the game. In the last 5 minutes when they should have been throwing the kitchen sink at Streatham to try and get an equaliser, they couldn’t because they were on the penalty kill.  The only other niggle for me would be getting a few more shots on target. There were a lot that were wide of the net

For Invicta, their import Eriks Ozallopa looks very good. He has great pace and definitely has an eye for both goals and good passes.  Mark Mcgill also had a very good game between the pipes. He just looked incredibly solid and was not easy to beat.  During the third especially he seemed to stand on his head at times and there was one save from Fisher that I am still not sure how he made!  Arron Strawson’s return to the club has also clearly been a huge positive for the Mos as he was both strong in defence as well as having 2 well taken goals tonight (one of which came close to challenging Allen’s for brilliance).  Youngsters Bailey Wootton and Josh Condren also looked to be very good pick-ups for the team as both look like great prospects with skill and passion shown in abundance.

Downsides for Invicta – well they should consider themselves very lucky not to have had several players thrown out of the game. There was a bit of a brawl by their bench (which seemed to come after a bit of nothing pushing and shoving between Wiggins and (I think) Wootton – but we could clearly see multiple Invicta players throwing punches from the bench which should have been game misconducts.  There were also a couple of shifts in the third period where I think they went a bit missing under pressure from the Skins’ attacks and left Mcgill in nets high and dry.  They were incredibly lucky to get away with it as Mcgill managed to save their blushes with some superb saves – but you shouldn’t be relying on your nettie to save you and they were very lucky not to have been punished for the lapses in concentration.

Overall, as said before – it was an excellent game and despite being a neutral I was left almost breathless in places due to the speed and skills on show.  It made the 180 mile round trip worthwhile and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

Best moment of the night though has to go for the 4 Streatham players in the bin after the brawl who decided to do a Mexican wave for the crowd.  That was class!

Posted in Match report - First thoughts

September 26th, 2015 by Nancy Carpenter

A tough 10-3 road loss for Oxford against a very strong looking Streatham who simply seemed to send a relentless onslaught of attacks on the Stars zone throughout the game.  Streatham did look very good and were definitely worthy of the win, all three lines looked sharp and goal hungry.  Oxford in comparison looked a little shaky at the back with both Avery and Moore missing and the defensive errors were very much back in evidence.

My heart always sighs a little whenever I see Rene Ross announced as the ref in a game at this level and tonight his performance was no better than usual.  He made bad calls and missed calls all over the place and I can only describe his behaviour as ‘bottling it’ when he didn’t throw Adam Wood out of the game for the clearest case of third man in I have seen in years.  The only positive about his performance was that it did not affect the outcome of the game and he was even-handed in his lack of ability to officiate at this level with the calls he did and didn’t make at this level.

So what about the two teams?  Streatham looked good tonight – their passing was mostly pretty slick, they were strong in their own end and were relentless in the pressure they put Oxford under with wave after wave of attack minded play. All three lines were working well and they looked like a team that want to mount a serious challenge on the title this season.  Dom Hopkins particularly impressed me tonight – he was composed on and off the puck, was very strong defensively, made good passes out of the Streatham end to create breaks for Streatham and his goal was well taken. Liam Rasmussen also stood out from a forward perspective.  His work rate was fantastic tonight and he really earned the goal and assists he gained tonight,  Their new import, Kamil Kinkor, is a really strong addition to the squad as well – he has speed and good hands.  From what I heard from a few Streatham fans tonight he is improving every game as well so he may not even be at his best yet,

On the down side for Streatham – I was not too impressed with their discipline. Adam Wood should thank every god he knows that it was Ross officiating tonight as I can’t think of another ref who wouldn’t have given him a game misconduct for 3rd man in when he jumped Jason Ikin from behind.  It was pointless and gutless for me.  The pushing match between Ikin and Johnston that preceded it was nothing much and he escalated it for no apparent reason. Right at the end of the game there was a stupid hit, I think from Wood again (but may be wrong) where there was a clear hit to the head of Nick Oliver – the game was done, Streatham had clearly won and it was an unnecessary bit of nastiness.

Oxford – well the positives are limited this evening.  They did NOT impress anyone.  The number of turnovers they gave up in the neutral zone was horrific. Time and time again, passes were made trying to go through a Streatham player.  Unsurprisingly, Streatham intercepted, said thanks very much and turned back into the Oxford zone.  You just can’t give away the neutral zone like that if you want to be competitive in this league. Stars work rate was also down tonight – I don’t know how much they had just given up, but from the start of the second period there just wasn’t the intensity or will to win that I had seen against London or Wightlink.  Even when Stars were 5-0 down away on the Island, I didn’t think their head dropped as much as they did when it was just 3-1 tonight. The defensive errors were back with a vengence – and that’s not just about the defenders but also the forwards when we were defending (which was a lot).  I like Connor Ranby a lot as a netminder, but you can’t expect him to survive the onslaught that the rest of the team allowed him to face.  I’m not sure how much the missing players affected the team and got into their heads. Yes, losing all of Magee, Green, Avery and Moore for a big game is going to be tough, but there is enough talent in the team for Oxford not to curl up and die the way they did tonight.

There were some positives for Oxford.  This is the first game that Jason Ikin got more than the odd shift in, and I really hope it will not be the last!  He really impressed me – he plays a lot older than his 18 years and I think will be a real talent in the team. He (like every other D man tonight) made mistakes – and he did have his clock cleaned by Hopkins with a huge “welcome to the NIHL” hit but he got back up and kept going. I thought he out played quite a few of our more experienced defenders tonight and I hope he has done enough to earn a regular spot on the team tonight – personally I would put him ahead of Jake Florey, Sam Arnold or James Clarke in what I have seen and he is the sort of player we need to give more ice time to in order to help him develop.

The other positive for me was that the line of Edwards, Hedges and Whillock did seem to show some glimpses of grit tonight and they were the only line that really seemed to click on the ice.  Backed up by Ikin and Joe Oliver they always looked the most likely to score – and in fact were responsible for 2 or the 3 goals.

For Streatham this was a dominating performance and the games between them and other league challengers Wightlink and Chelmsford are going to be interesting.  For Oxford, they simply have to do better.  Tonight was one for them to put behind them – to be honest, they might not have won even at full strength as they were always going to be underdogs going in to this game and all will be forgiven if they beat Solent at home next week.  However, they have to at least try for the whole 60 minutes and not look like they have given up before they even start.

 

Posted in Match report - First thoughts

September 20th, 2015 by Nancy Carpenter

A much improved Oxford City Stars got a really important point tonight in a 2-2 tie with Wightlink Raiders.  After last weekend when defensive errors were the key issue across both games, these seemed to have been greatly reduced (not completely, but I don’t expect miracles).  Wightlink by comparison looked lack-lustre compared to their performance against Stars last Saturday and certainly didn’t look as slick in either their passing or finishing.

Wightlink were missing Cesky, who was suspended after taking a match penalty for cross-checking in last night’s clash against Chelmsford – clearly a big loss for them, but while he had been good the previous weekend, he had not been by any means a one-man show. Oxford were missing Green, Avery and Whillock – all very much an integral part of the team as well.

I’ll admit – I got my pre-game prediction totally wrong.  I said Wightlink by 4, because given the two teams’ performances the previous weekend, I thought that was about right.  However, tonight it was Oxford that really stepped up to the plate and really took the game to Wightlink. I’ll be the first to admit that I underestimated how determined Oxford were to improve and how capable they were of doing so.  Tonight, Stars showed grit, strong defensive plays and really had their share of chances to take both points.  The game was an excellent one and I think a draw was probably the fairest result on the balance of how both teams played.

Positives for Oxford? – There were quite a few of them tonight…

  • Ben Ealey-Newman continues his scoring streak and to be honest there is an expectation that something might just happen every time he gets on the ice.  He is a really exciting player and one I hope Stars can keep a hold of – at least as long as he is playing in NIHL1 as I think he could well be a solid EPL player in a few years.
  • Connor Ranby looked excellent in nets tonight.  The two he let in were not really errors from him. One was a rebound after the initial save had been made and the second was just a quality move from Lawday – yes maybe just saveable if he had a chance again, but not easily and not a mistake from where I was standing.
  • Shane Moore continues to impress me – he is just so calm on the puck, has a real burst of speed when he wants it and makes some really good outlet passes.
  • Dax Hedges literally does not stop skating. Ever. There were times when his aggressive forecheck won the puck and made something happen. He might not be the best finisher in the league but he is a really strong playmaker and definitely an asset to the team.
  • The whole team played well together – yes I’ve picked out a few who impressed me but this was a really strong team performance tonight.  Every player did good things tonight.  Every player played a part in getting the result.  It was a strong hardworking TEAM performance and that was probably the biggest positive of the lot.
  • The 3-on-5 penalty kill in the dying minutes of the game was an absolute lesson in how to deal with this situation.  The three players on the ice never stopped moving, managed to cut down angles and keep Raiders to the outside as well as getting crucial sticks in the way and managing to clear and force Raiders to reset.

Negatives…?  Well I have a couple of thoughts, maybe not big downers but maybe areas for improvement.

  • The ‘dump and glide’ reared it’s head a few times tonight – not every time (I do remember watching Nick Oliver actually do the chase part of the play on one occasion) but I also remember the puck being dumped in and no effort to chase it down and win it by our forwards.  If you are going to dump then you really need to chase as well unless you are going for a change…
  • Maybe not a negative so much – but I would really like to see some more of Jason Ikin.  I know he is young, but i would actually rather see him getting a bit of ice and experience.  He impressed me against Haringey (admittedly not much of a challenge) but players like him are our future and we need to make sure we give them a chance before having them sit games out on the bench.

For Wightlink – well if they want to make a serious challenge on Chelmsford’s dominance then they need to put together better performances than that… on the Island they looked far more like title contenders, today they looked a little ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, there are some string players there – Ingoldsby was dangerous all night and impressed me and Colclough is just quality through and through.  But should losing Cesky effect them as much as it clearly did?  Probably not.

Full match report and a rundown on all the action will be up later in the week.

Posted in Match report - First thoughts

September 13th, 2015 by Nancy Carpenter

Oxford get their first win of the season – and it was certainly one they fought hard for.  Any 8-7 game is going to have a lot of drama in it and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.  If the rest of the Oxford-London series continues in this vein it is one we’ll be talking about for a while.

It was a cracker of a game – with the momentum and the lead swapping sides multiple times. While there was some good skills shown by both sides, it was also a game that was characterised by mistake with defensive errors aplenty from both sides and neither netminder really showering themselves in glory – they certainly both conceded goals that they would like back.  In my mind it was an incredibly even game, both teams clearly gave everything they had and were exhausted by the end of the game. I think the scuffles that seemed to happen after every single whistle in the third period were as much about the players wanting an extra few seconds of rest as they were about the tension everyone seemed to be feeling!

The ejections near the end of the first period were just daft from the players. If there is a fight between two players, don’t get involved, let them get on with it. Jumping the opposition fighter from behind is only ever going to get you in trouble with the ref.  I have more sympathy for Steve Osman who seemed to just be trying to stop Webster from getting involved, but he should also know better and hopefully this will be a lesson learned for both players.

I’ll actually start with my thoughts on London (as I spent the game on their bench). They are not a bad team at all – Liam Chong is absolute quality. He’s an exciting player who stands out and had a cracking game tonight constantly causing trouble for the Oxford defence.  He could maybe work on the defensive side of his game a bit, but going forwards he is a player any team in this league would love to have. Youngster Seb Downing also impressed me – he’s got a real sense of energy about him and an excellent eye for goal.  He’s definitely one to look out for.

For Oxford, there were definitely some positives (well the 2 points for a start).  Ealey Newman continues to impress me – like Downing for London he has great hands and and eye for goal. He also kept his temper well today and there were no silly penalties from him despite the game getting heated. Darren Elliott hopefully put the ghost of Chelmsfords past away by scoring an almost identical breakaway in the first minute of the game. Shane Moore was tested for the first time and looked very strong in defence, calm and assured and he’s definitely got one hell of a turn of speed when he needs it. The ‘chicken wings’ sign at the end of the game to the London player who refused to fight him was a bit silly though and given that we were in a very tight game we could have done with him on the ice and not in the bin on an incitement misconduct. Coming back from a 4-1 deficit also showed a lot of grit – in past seasons that might have signalled game over.

For the negatives – as mentioned above, there were a LOT of defensive errors. We got caught on the Raiders blue line way too many times and it cost us.  I’d like to see us forecheck harder as well – there is no point in just skating up to the player on the puck at half speed – you have to put the fear of god into them by going full pelt and trying to force them to make a bad play. I’m going to reserve judgement on young Connor Ranby in nets for now.  He had a bit of a shocker in the first half of the game and I think he let himself be thrown by the jeering of the London fans to start with.  However, he came back into the game in the second half and clearly was able to block them out and was much improved, so we’ll see if it was initial first league game nerves after he gets a few more games under his belt. He certainly had a couple of fine saves in the final period.

I’ll be doing a combined match report of both games with a lot more details later this week.

Posted in Match report - First thoughts

September 12th, 2015 by Nancy Carpenter

Well Oxford came down with a bump after their 10-0 steamrollering of Haringey last week as they suffered a heavy defeat away against Wightlink Raiders.  The game ended 7-2 and certainly had a touch of controversy.

Shannon Long was thrown out of the game for a second misconduct after smashing his stick on the boards in anger after a misunderstanding had him leaving his net open for the Raiders to score their 6th goal while he skated to the bench thinking there was a delayed penalty called. His first misconduct came for removing his helmet during a break in play.  I’ll admit that’s a new one on me and I can only assume he had a warning beforehand although I don’t remember him removing it before then.

Overall, Wightlink were worthy winners.  They looked sharp and their finishing was simply much better than Oxford’s. Were they 5 goals better?  Honestly, I am not sure – Matty Colclough had an absolute blinder in the Raiders’ net which stopped the scoreline from being closer.  But they still deserved the points and would probably have won anyway as they were the better team.

Positives for Oxford – well the debut appearance of young Ben Ealey-Newman would definitely have to be up there. He looked like he could just be a bit special.  Two nice goals – the second one especially was very well taken while under pressure from a defender.  He skated hard all night and I think he is going to be a real force to be reckoned with in the league this season. The team didn’t ever give up either and were pushing for goals right up to the last second even though the game was clearly gone.

Negatives – well I thought our forechecking could have been better – we weren’t going hard enough into the corners and gave up on pucks that we might have got to if we’d gone full speed for them.  Passing was definitely not as sharp as last week – but then it was probably never going to be against a much tougher opposition who will give them less time on the puck. There were too many wayward or blind passes for my liking though.

Overall score on the Oxford performance – probably a C-. Certainly could do better but it’s early in the season and we’re still missing a couple of key players (no Green, Moore or N.Oliver tonight). Wightlink though look very good and will certainly be a title challenger again this season.

Tomorrow’s game against London Raiders is probably far more important in many respects, Oxford need to be taking the points from the games against the other low-budget teams if they want to move up the table.

A full match report will be up later in the week.

Posted in Match report - First thoughts

September 6th, 2015 by Nancy Carpenter

So Stars kicked off the 2015/16 season with a pre season warm up game against NIHL2 London Haringey Racers…

Stars were very comfortable winners – on the right end of a 10-0 scoreline.  And that was without the firepower of Ben Ealey-Newman (suspended), Alan Green (injured – hopefully back next week) and new import Andrew Bates (not registered yet).

Here’s a couple of thoughts on the game…

  1. Stars started slowly, the first 5 minutes I thought we might actually get a decent game out of this as Racers went hell for leather and Stars were not close to clicking. Honestly, if we play like that against the likes of Chelmsford we might lose the game before we are in it.
  2. Having said that once we got going, it looked VERY good.  Yes it was against weaker opposition than we’ll see in the league, but some of the tic-tac-toe passing was exceptional and created so many scoring chances.  After that first 5 minutes, Haringey were pretty much confined to distance shots and the odd breakaway.
  3. The new signings who played looked pretty good.  Magee and Osman both looked dangerous, Moore looked incredibly calm on the puck, Ikin looked solid and played much older than his years. Ranby in nets didn’t have a lot to do except for one fantastic save in the third period from a 2-on-0 breakaway, but what he did do looked good.
  4. Simon’s talk about players skating hard in both directions was clearly taken to heart, there was good back checking and good forechecking from all lines and despite being on cruise control by the second period, the team were still putting the effort in.  This will pay off in dividends if it continues next season.
  5. I’ve already mentioned it, but the passing was really looking good.  I’ve caught a few training sessions and it’s clear the team is working on short hard passes as part of their training and it really showed.  At times we just turned Racers defence inside out with the passing.
  6. Discipline stayed good – yes there was an on-ice fight between Whillock and Racer’s Ali Band – but it was very straightforward and the ref got it right with 2+2’s all around.  Apart from that there was just 2 minor penalties.

So did I think the game was worth playing – honestly I am not sure.  Yes it was good to have an opener but I am not really sure that either team got a lot out of the game. Stars were not exactly tested and while we looked very good, that could have just been because we were against opposition that simply isn’t up to Division 1 standard. Similarly, it must have been pretty dis-heartening for Racers to be so comprehensively drubbed…
Having said that – it was good for the players to have a chance of some competitive hockey before the whirlwind of the season proper starts.  A chance to stretch the legs and do a quick fitness assessment.
So on balance, I guess it was worth playing – I just wish it had been more of a test and a little more competitive.

A proper match report will be up later this week…

 

Posted in Match report - First thoughts