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.