Photo Credits: Robert Swann (Annetts) and Paul Foster (Ranby)
Oxford City Stars today announced that they had captured the signing of netminder Tom Annetts from Bracknell Bees. Annetts is a player with a huge amount of EPL experience having played for the in that division for more than 10 seasons.
Annetts played his junior hockey at Bracknell and played his first senior hockey with Bracknell Hornets ENL team at the age of 15. As a 16 year old, he signed for Bracknell Bees in the BNL, while also playing U19 hockey before moving to the Guildford system where he played his final 2 years of junior hockey while also playing backup to the Flames. He stayed with the Flames for his first full senior year before moving teams to Slough in 2006, back to Bracknell in 2007, to Basingstoke in 2009 before returning to Bracknell for the third time in 2011 (all in EPL), where he has stayed since.
Annetts has an EPL Champion medal (Guildford 2005-06 season), an EPL playoff champion medal (Slough 2007-08) and also had the highest save percentage in the EPL in 2008-09 when at his second stint at Bracknell. His ice time at the Bees does appear to have gradually decreased over the last 4 seasons with him getting over 60% in the 2012/13 season to around 33% last season. This season, while Alex Mettam has had the nod to start more frequently, Annetts was still getting significant ice time and played in both of Bracknell’s double-header games against Sheffield last weekend.
For Oxford, this is a huge signing. Annetts is still acknowledged as an EPL quality netminder and at 28 should still be in his ‘prime’ years. He could make a huge impact on the Oxford team and give them the confidence to move past their disappointing performances of last weekend. This season the team has been very much on the up and will be pushing for a string mid-table finish (probably 5th or 6th) which will be a huge step up from narrowly avoiding relegation last season and shows their improvement and ambition.
So what does this mean for Oxford’s current netminder duo of Connor Ranby and Shannon Long? Well Oxford’s statement on the signing of Annetts also states that Ranby has been told he is ‘free to look for another club’ (i.e. released).
I’ll be honest, I find this a surprising decision. Of the two, I think Ranby is the better netminder and at only 20 years old, I think he has more potential to improve further. From what I have seen of the two young netties who started the season with Stars, I thought Ranby was simply better and certainly more consistent. Long was also guilty of a ‘moment of madness’ on more than one occasion – making a risky play, or losing his rag and getting chucked out of the game.
I do wonder if perhaps Ranby was less willing to play a back-up role, which is what I assume that Shannon Long will now be doing and that was the deciding factor here. Whatever, I think he is an exciting young netminder and hope that he finds a berth in another team quickly as I think he has an exciting future ahead of him. Certainly his performance against Chelmsford Chieftains earlier in the season is one I will remember for a long time.
I look forward to seeing Tom on the ice, I’m guessing that Oxford fans who make the trip to Invicta this weekend will get a chance to see him in action there.
I had a quick chat with Simon Anderson today about the singing and this is what he had to say:
“I’m delighted to capture someone of Toms calibre. It’s tough on a young guy like Connor,but I just felt this was a necessary move for our organisation. We are getting a guy in Tom,who is still a legitimate EPL goalie and I would not be doing my job correctly as a coach if i do not make moves to improve our roster when I can or have to.
We have a remit in place, as to where we have to finish in the league and it is my job to make sure that this is attained.If I have to make more moves,then that’s what I will do. It’s tough on Connor Ranby as he did not do anything wrong, but sometimes that’s hockey and we wish him well with his future career.”