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Raiders left seeing Stars

11:24 11 January 2016

London Raiders Michael Gray, David Oliver and Tom Davis deep in discussion (pic: John Scott)

London Raiders Michael Gray, David Oliver and Tom Davis deep in discussion (pic: John Scott)

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National League: Oxford 5 London Raiders 2

London Raiders lost a tough away battle to the Oxford City Stars last night, in a match highlighted by eight fights and fuming fans.

Oxford took the lead in the third minute and never looked back as they cruised to victory.

Raiders captain Tom Davis supplied both goals for London, who dropped down to seventh place in the Division One South table with the loss.

But the match result was overshadowed by the chippy play of both teams and the dissatisfaction of the visiting fans with the officials.

Shortly after the Stars opened the scoring, London’s Mason Webster was given two minutes for hooking.

Davis was furious at the decision and the travelling Raiders fans backed him up.

And Oxford took advantage on the powerplay, as the Raiders defence backed off and allowed Joshua Florey to float in from the blue line and wrist home a shot through traffic to make it 2-0.

Raiders had little chance to decrease the deficit throughout the first period as their sloppy passing created more chances for the home side and increased the frustration of their fans.

Michael Gray prevented the Stars from taking a 3-0 lead late in the period with a stellar reflex save when, after a scramble for possession at the front of the net, an Oxford forward took control with his back to goal and fired off a quick shot as he spun around.

Gray’s lightning-quick reaction denied him and kept the deficit manageable for his side.

A few minutes later the ugliness started, as Stars captain Darren Elliott was penalized for holding Webster, who negated the powerplay by retaliating and was thrown in the penalty box as well.

Two more fights broke out before the end of the period and the referees tried to cool down the players’ tempers during a long delay.

Play restarted with the Raiders given a 4-on-3 advantage, but seven seconds later, the referee stopped play for cross-checking by Oxford’s Boris Ruzicka and a holding the stick penalty by London’s Rio Grinell-Parke.

Davis took a frustrated slapshot from the blue line several seconds after the whistle had been blown and received a mock ovation from the Stars bench. The referee raced over to prevent any escalation as Davis and the bench exchanged words.

In the second period, Davis was once again in the action as he scored to cut Oxford City’s lead in half, just one second after a London powerplay came to an end.

The play started with Gray slapping the puck up the centre of the ice to Slovakian import Marek Nahlik, who passed it on ahead to Webster.

After carrying it into the offensive zone, Webster sent the puck across to the left side, where Davis fired in a slap shot from the face-off circle to open the Raiders account.

But the Stars quickly restored their two-goal lead again four minutes into the period as Alan Green skated through the defence, swept past the goal from right to left and flicked the puck back in front of goal, where it was directed into the net by Benjamin Ealey-Newman.

Green then scored with a slapshot later in the period and the Stars led 4-1, but Raiders assistant captain David Oliver kept the match from becoming even more one-sided, twice throwing himself down to block scoring chances for the home side.

Oliver was sent to the box late in the period for cross-checking, but the Raiders found a rare flash of brilliance and scored a short-handed goal.

Nahlik and Davis raced into the attacking zone with a 2-on-1 advantage and as the Oxford defenceman went down between them, looking to prevent a pass, Nahlik chipped the puck over the player to Davis, who slammed it into the back of the net.

Oliver returned to the ice, but was promptly back in the penalty box as once again the game got ugly, picking up two minutes for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct.

The first 10 minutes of the final period were quiet, as the players were content to let their hostility simmer.

At the halfway mark, two Raiders players went down in the offensive zone, with no penalties called.

As the Raiders fans loudly protested, a shoving match started between two players and within seconds, a 10-man brawl was on as the crowd rose to their feet to watch.

The melee eventually resolved itself into two separate fights, which both ended with the players wrestling each other to the ground before the referees stepped in.

Raiders alternate captain Rob Jenner and Webster were given penalties for fighting, as Oxford’s Dax Hedges was also give a double minor and Jason Ikin picked up six minutes.

Two smaller fights broke out as the time ticked down, but the Raiders failed to take advantage of a 5-on-3 power play, much to the frustration of Gray, who could be heard furiously shouting for his team to get a player in front of the net.

The Raiders fans continued to express their disapproval of the referees and the atmosphere at the arena became ugly.

With 38.5 seconds remaining, Stars assistant captain Andrew Cox was called for charging Webster and both players threw off their gloves.

The referees elected to allow them to fight and, after Webster knocked Cox to the ice, the officials assessed penalties and London pulled Gray to get a man advantage for the final seconds.

But Oxford’s Michael Whillock scored on the empty net with three seconds left, much to the delight of the home supporters.

Raiders return to Lee Valley next weekend to host Invicta before visiting Solent the following evening.

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