So the big Chelmsford machine moves on with a 6-1 win over Oxford City Stars tonight. But I would have to say that the scoreline did not really reflect the game. Don’t get me wrong, Chelmsford were absolutely the better team out there. Their one touch passing and the speed of their transitions was something else. But I have to give credit to Oxford as well – they actually played very well and had some good moves of their own.
At the end of the first, with Chelmsford 5-0 up, the game was effectively over. But nobody bothered to tell that to the teams. Maybe Chelmsford took their foot off the pedal very slightly – but honestly not by much. The difference was that Oxford came out of the dressing room with a hell of a lot of intent. They hadn’t actually been playing that badly before during the first period – Chelmsford were just in a different league to them and it was the little lapses in concentration that cost goals (or in a couple of cases, the genius of the Chelmo players).
The biggest difference to this and other Oxford losses I have seen has to be the Oxford work rate. It was absolutely spot on tonight. Every player was giving everything every shift. Forwards were getting back to defend, defenders were pushing forward to pressure the Chelmsford net and Shannon Long in the Oxford net had by far and away the best game I have seen from him. You might have expected at 5-0 down after only 20 minutes for the team to shrug their shoulders and go ‘well they are better than us’ – instead they seemed to say ‘then we need to be better than we are to try and match them’. They didn’t quite have the skill levels to match Chelmsford but their hard work actually made up some of that. They didn’t give Chelmsford time on the puck to set things up, there was always an Oxford player in their face as soon as they gained possession.
Particularly good from Oxford tonight was their penalty kill. It was very well organised and again incredibly hard working. They needed to be because Chelmsford looked incredibly dangerous on the powerplay! They had really slick passing around the zone, probing for gaps and pushing themselves into the gaps when they found them. But Oxford mostly kept the gaps closed and kept their box shape superbly.
Also an important positive for Stars was the fact that they only gave up 4 powerplays to Chelmsford (and received the same in return). Discipline was absolutely better than in previous games where silly penalties seemed to come at just the wrong time, stopping their momentum.
What about Chelmsford though? Well I am not sure I have enough superlatives for them. They are so well organised and their movement and passing is top notch. They came at Oxford with so much speed, I think it just caught Stars off guard in the first period. The finishing was also excellent. What’s really scary is that I am not 100% sure that they ever really reached top gear tonight. That’s not to say they weren’t working hard and trying hard, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if any team actually manages to come close this season, we might find Chelmsford have that extra gear to be truly amazing. All three of their lines looked slick and I would expect to see plenty of goals spread out. James Ayling and the two Bartlett boys were probably the players that stuck out to me most from them. All three just have bags of talent and I am surprised Ayling has never tried his hand at EPL as he would certainly be good enough from what I have seen. The two Bartlett lads are still young and I suspect could make the move if they want to within a year or two.
The only surprise for me tonight was Huska, I thought he was incredibly quiet tonight and only noticed him on the ice a few times. Not sure if he was being rested and not out there much or if he was simply a bit anonymous tonight in a team as high quality as this one was.
Overall, a far more entertaining game than I was expecting (especially after the first period) and Oxford can really hold their heads up. I may be wrong, but I think they are the first team to even take a period from Chelmsford at home (they won the second period 1-0). I chatted to a couple of fans throughout the game and they said Oxford were also the best team they had seen here so far this season. Chelmsford must be locked on for a lot of silverware though. I’ve now seen every team in action and none of the others even come close.