Young Raiders look to pass early Oxford tests on return to ice as new season begins

Raiders coach Ben Pitchley looks on (pic Nicola Day)

Raiders coach Ben Pitchley looks on (pic Nicola Day) - Credit: Archant

The new ice hockey season gets underway this weekend, as Everyone Active Raiders host Oxford in a challenge match at Romford’s Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre on Saturday (5.15pm).

Raiders defenceman Callum Burnett with the club's new mascot and supporters at the Havering Show

Raiders defenceman Callum Burnett with the club's new mascot and supporters at the Havering Show - Credit: Archant

The two sides meet in a return fixture in the university city on Sunday and coach Ben Pitchley expects two tough contests ahead of the new Division One season.

Raiders finished seventh in Division Two in their debut campaign last season, with Oxford third, before moving up in a summer restructure.

Pitchley said: "Oxford are another programme like ours and are looking at promoting their own local junior players into the senior team.

"They have a new coach for the upcoming season in Simon Anderson and will be looking to a strong season.

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"Simon is one of few coaches in the country that has taken his career on the road, coaching in North America and Europe with junior and senior programmes, so we're expecting a well-drilled Oxford side this weekend."

Thes under-18s began their new Division Two season with a 13-4 win at Peterborough last weekend, where Ewan Hill netted six times, and the under-15s host Haringey on Sunday (12pm).

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Junior head coach Pitchley added: "The junior programme is coming on leaps and bounds after their first season back in the EIHA junior leagues.

"Numbers have swollen somewhat over the summer with players wanting to develop their hockey skillsets and looking at the pathway the club has in place with the National League Division One team now playing at a higher level against some big teams that decided not to step up to the National league.

"The step from juniors into the National League is now massive, so the Division One team give those top-end players a more gradual stepping stone into senior hockey.

"This league is going to be a big step up from last year for our young team, but we have stuck to the club's ethos regarding youth, and with the pick-ups we have made over the summer period, we are looking to deliver a better development model for this young team."

Raiders will also include two imports this season in the shape of Lithuanian winger Vilius Krakauskas and Czech forward Jan Marcilis.

The club are holding a Meet the Players evening at the Collier Row Catholic Club, Lowshoe Lane this Saturday from 7pm.

And the senior National League Raiders start their campaign with challenge matches against Bracknell Bees next weekend (September 14-15), playing at home on the Sunday at 5.15pm.

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