With the fixtures just released, 482 Days takes a hastily cobbled together look at five of the key clashes that the Stars are going to face this season:
Oxford City Stars vs London Raiders – Sunday 13th September, Oxford Ice Rink
It was a series of two halves. Two games that were well tempered and two games that had a real physicality, a playoff style intensity that we simply didn’t see in any other games last season. Raiders have had a mixed off season, strengthening in some areas but losing with the signing, then subsequent unsigning, of Mason Webster for the upcoming campaign.
Regardless however of this, you know that London won’t have forgotten that the Stars won the series (by 5pts to 3pts) last time around and they will be looking forward to attempting to change it this season and regardless of how many they have left to sign, you can expect the usual ‘friendly’ welcome from the Raiders, which makes them one of the most entertaining teams in the league to watch.
Add onto this, it’s the opening home game of the season and that does make it a high pressure one for the Stars, especially after playing Wightlink the day before.
Oxford City Stars vs Solent Devils – Sunday 4th October, Oxford Ice Rink
Andrew Magee left Solent to the Stars, while Mason Wild left Stars for Solent in the summer, so it’ll be an early test for both players looking to get one over on their previous teams. Stars will have last season’s dire home record against Solent to handle, defeated by about eight goals a game on average at home, it’s a huge chance for Stars to put one over a key bogey team that they have.
Both teams have had continual improvement over the last few years so, it’s a key test for both sides in how they are faring, it’s a true barometer game this one if there ever was such a thing.
Cardiff NIHL1 Devils vs Oxford City Stars – Saturday 10th October, Planet Ice – Cardiff
It’s a well known fact that Oxford’s record in Cardiff is abysmal, but this could be Stars best chance to do something about it. With so many names you’d expect to be icing for the Devils turning up in NIHL2 to play for the Cardiff Fire it may be a tough season for the Devils.
But that all being said, how can anyone tell? Cardiff have announced just Christopher Hart, who despite being a solid NIHL1 player, isn’t going to be able to hold the fort on his own. As is the case with Cardiff, it’s likely that their team will remain much of a mystery until the start of the season. One thing you can be sure of is that Cardiff will put out a team that will likely be one of the best drilled and most hard-working in the league.
The last time Stars won in Cardiff was back in October 2010, so Stars will be looking to put this five-year hoodoo to bed once and for all.
Bracknell Hornets vs Oxford City Stars (home and away series), Saturday/Sunday 20th/21st February, John Nike Leisure Centre & Oxford Ice Rink
In a repeat of the series last season, Stars and the Hornets will clash twice over a weekend and if it’s as good as last years, we’re in for a treat. Last time around both teams won their home games, but it was a real case of Stars getting beaten on the Saturday and learning from their mistakes and going on to get a big victory.
The absence of Peter Jasik this season for Bracknell will be interesting, too early to sense how important that is as the Hornets line-up is not complete but Jasik’s scoring record against Oxford is unparalleled and Stars have traditionally faired better when he’s not been in the line-up.
With the Stars looking to push on, this could be the pivotal weekend in the race for the playoffs with just five games to go after this point.
Oxford City Stars vs Bracknell Hornets – Sunday 20th March, Oxford Ice Rink
It’s déjà vu in this article (Bracknell) again but also for the Stars fans facing Bracknell in the last home game of the season. Cast your minds back to the 2010/11 season and Stars in the 11-team ENL1 as it were cruising into the playoffs in Janurary, the thought of not making it not even being entertained by the most pessimistic Oxford fans.
But all they could show for their March performance was a win against basement boys Swindon and a draw against Streatham, while Bracknell were on the charge after an awful start to the season. Bracknell lead from the start leading 3-2, then 5-2 again. Dax Hedges and Darren Elliott got the Stars back to 5-4 but it was too little, too late and the Hornets pipped them to the 8th and final playoff spot on the final day of the season.
If it’s close in the playoff race, this could be a huge one to watch and an opportunity for Stars to finally gain their revenge over Bracknell.