All smiles at the end of the game. Photo credit: Stu Widdows
Other photos: Paul Foster (Oliver and Hedges) and Stu Widdows (Ikin and Whillock)
Oxford City Stars opened their 2015/16 account with a pre-season warm-up game against NIHL2 Haringey Racers. Oxford were comfortable winners with a 10-0 scoreline that was not even that flattering. Josh Florey, Dax Hedges and new import Andrew Magee each got a brace while Mike Whillock, Nick Oliver, Joe Edwards and new defenceman Shane Moore also grabbed a goal apiece.
Oxford were missing the mercurial Alan Green (injured), Ben Ealey-Newman had a suspension carried over from his U18 career and new import Andrew Bates who registration had not been completed.
When the game started, and it was Haringey that came out of the blocks faster with a blistering
first few minutes where they really pushed the Stars back into their own end. Racers certainly had the first genuine scoring chance with a goalmouth scramble that ended with the puck cleared off the line by a defenceman. However, the Stars soon found their rhythm and started to turn the tide of pressure back towards the Haringey net. There were several great chances: Josh Oliver went coast to coast before forcing a great save from Niks Trapans in the Racer’s net; Edwards shot just wide from close distance and Magee hit the post.
The breakthrough came when Hedges found Whillock on the back post and he slotted it under the keeper and into the net. An additional assist went to Andy Cox who started the blue with a slick pass from the blue line. Oxford’s second goal came a few minutes later while Racer’s Jack Ball sat a cross-checking penalty, Osman fed Avery on the blue line and his slapshot was tipped in by Magee. Stars continued to pile on the pressure and forced Racers into conceding a second powerplay when Mark Saunders was sent to the box for slashing. Less than 30 seconds into the powerplay Josh Florey scored a beautiful goal – close up with a slap shot from just a few metres out which flew past over the goalies shoulder. The period ended 90 seconds later and Stars were looking very comfortable already 3-0 up.
The second continued as the first ended with Stars in control and piling the pressure on. Racers had a few chances on the break but Oxford were able to tidy up and stopped Haringey from setting up in the Stars’ end. Conor Ranby had the odd busy spell but mostly looked fairly untroubled and was able to deal with most shots with ease. Stars extended their lead in the 26th minute when Hedges had a lovely little backhand in front of the net to make it 4-0. Hedges was also involved in the 5th goal as he combined with Elliott to feed Moore on the blue line. Magee then got his second of the night after a pass from Elliott to make it 6-0. A goalmouth scramble ended in Nick Oliver getting a slightly ugly goal (although he claims they are the best kind), slotting home a rebound from an Avery shot then made it 7-0 which is where the period ended.
The heat seemed to have gone out of the game, Stars were cruising and clearly working on set plays ahead of going against more testing opposition. Racers looked a bit dispirited – although to be fair to them, they never stopped skating and never gave up. There was a brief tilt between Mike Whillock and Racer’s tough guy Ali Band which did get the crowd going. It was a good clean fight with both clearly willing participants – Ali Band probably won the fight on points as he seemed to land a few more punches and the ref got it right by giving them a simple 2+2 each with the game restarting shortly afterwards, although there was a brief delay to mop up the blood from Whillock’s split lip. The period ended with Nick Oliver slotting home a sweet shot – but it passed the goal line a split second after the buzzer and was disallowed.
The third period continued in the same theme with Stars dominating the play. They did have a brief spell on the penalty kill after Elliott was sent to the box for hooking, but they actually had the best chance of the 2-minute minor when Magee and Hedges combined really well to force a great save down low from Trapans. Racers’ player/coach Drew Campbell had a good single-handed effort but was unable to get a good final touch and Oxford’s defence were able to clean up with relative ease.
Oxford’s 8th goal came in the 45th minute when quick and fast passing around the Haringey zone from Josh Florey, Osman and Edwards pulled the keeper out of position and Josh Florey was left in front of a nearly open goal and made no mistake, ramming the puck into the corner to claim his second of the night. Seconds after the restart Osman had a terrific breakaway after an excellent headman pass from Shane Moore, but was unable to convert after being pulled down by a Racer’s defender, leaving Stars on the powerplay again. Despite having wave after wave of attacks on the Racers net, there were too many off target shots paired with some good saves by Trapans and the Oxford failed to keep their perfect powerplay record. The 9th goal followed a few minutes later as Edwards, Osman and Jason Ikin combined with some high-quality passing which turned the Racers defence inside-out and left the keeper with no chance of saving the final shot. In the last few minutes,
Racers really threw everything they had to try and push for a goal and Ranby was called into action for a sustained period for the first time since the first few minutes. He had a good reaction save from Haringey’s Conor Sheehen and then made one real showcase save when a rare defensive error from Stars saw Racers get a 2-on-0 breakaway. Tracking the puck carrier, Ranby was forced into making a diving save from the other side of the net after a great pass just above his slot. Racers push for goal was costly in the end as it saw them concede a 10th in the 59th minute when Hedges had a fantastic one-time shot from an Avery pass with Josh Oliver getting the second assist.
The game was not exactly end to end action – but it was a good way for the Stars players to stretch the legs, get some competitive hockey under their belts and work on their systems ahead of the much tougher test next week when they travel to the Island to face the Wightlink Raiders and then host the Romford Raiders at home in the first of 10 double header weekends this season.
Man of the match for Haringey went to the very promising looking Niks Trapans. He may have let in 10 but a lot of them really were not his fault and he made some blinding saves. At only 18 I think he will could be a name to watch out for in the future and wouldn’t be surprised to see him climbing the leagues in the next few years. For Oxford, new import Andrew Magee was given the nod and I had to agree – he looked dangerous all night and was unlucky to only have 2 goals to his name.
Good points: the passing was really good, especially in the offensive zone where short sharp passes were turning the Racers’ defence inside out and creating good scoring chances.
To be improved: Stars need to come out of the blocks a bit harder. This was a problem last season as well sometime. Against better opposition we could easily have been a couple down after the opening 5 minutes.
Oxford: Hedges 2+2, Florey (Josh) 2+0, Magee 2+0, Edwards 1+1, Whillock 1+0, Oliver (Nick) 1+0, Moore 1+0, Osman 0+4, Avery 0+3, Elliott 0+2, Oliver (Josh) 0+1, Ikin 0+1. NM Ranby 31 shots (100%)
Haringey: NM Trapane 68 shots (85.3%)