The Under 18 Invicta Broncos visited Oxford on Saturday 2 February for the second of back to back games against the Under 18 Junior Stars. After the Broncos recorded their first ever win against the Stars at Planet Ice Gillingham on 12 January with a narrow 4-3 win, both teams were looking to take home the two points and were anticipating a close game.
The Broncos were led onto the ice by Captain and #61 Billy Woods, assisted by #22 Dwayne Baseby and #36 Joe Bradley. With #30 Owen Rider starting in the Broncos’ net, the match officials dropped the puck to get the game underway.
Invicta started the game strongly and had the first opportunity of the game when a Bradley snipe was saved by the Stars’ netminder. The home team took the lead on 1:24 when their first meaningful attack resulted in a goalmouth scramble, leaving an Oxford forward an opportunity to force the puck into an unguarded net. The Stars played a physical game with a number of heavy hits on the Invicta players, but the Broncos stood firm and did not get drawn into taking any unwanted penalties. Invicta tied the game on 8:00 when Bell picked up a lose Oxford pass in the neutral zone and fired a slapshot into the Stars’ net, much to the delight of the travelling supporters. Invicta tried to push on but could not score a second, with Baseby and Bradley both going close. Despite out-shooting the hosts 11-9, the score was tied at one goal a piece at the end of the first period.
The Broncos came out full of energy for the second period and #16 Crosland-Evans was unlucky not score as she denied by the Oxford goalie twice in quick succession from close range. Invicta comfortably killed an interference penalty called against #44 Alex Spokes, before they took the lead for the first time on 25:31. Bell entered the Stars’ zone down the right-hand side and his shot was saved, but he reacted first to pick up the rebound up on the left side of the crease before spinning and firing into the Oxford net from a tight angle. The Stars pushed back hard, but the Broncos defensive units of Woods & #21 Jordon Allen, #34 Ella Thompson & #72 Will Williams, and #18 Froude and #23 David Pereira kept Oxford at bay by clearing the zone time after time and restricting the Stars to efforts from distance which were comfortably dealt with by netminder Rider. At the other end Baseby and #52 Joe Crawford tirelessly chased and pressured the Oxford defence to disrupt their attempts to break out. At the end of the second the score was 2-1 to the visitors.
Invicta seized the initiative at the start of the third period and extended their lead on 33:19 when a nice pass from Thompson found Bell on the left-hand boards with a 2 on 1 breakaway. Spokes gave Bell a good passing angle to create uncertainty in the Stars’ defence and Bell used his teammate as a decoy and fired into the net to give the Broncos a 3-1 lead and to complete his hat-trick. However, the game wasn’t won and the Stars gave Invicta a quick wake-up call by ringing a short of the Broncos’ cross-bar. Invicta then managed to repel a scramble in their crease, as Rider fought to keep the puck out of his net. Oxford’s search for a goal were disrupted by a couple of minor penalties, and Invicta made the Stars pay for the second of these when they extended their lead to 4-1 with a powerplay goal on 40:56. Woods played a nice pass to Bell on the left-hand side of the Stars zone and his first attempt to pass to the front of goal to find Bradley or Crosland-Evans at centre ice was blocked. Bell picked up the puck and span around to play a second pass to the goal crease which went off an Oxford skate across the Stars’ goalline and send the Broncos’ bench wild. Oxford took a further penalty to disrupt any hopes they had of a late comeback and Invicta comfortably saw the game out through to the final buzzer.
A great effort from Invicta, with strong performances from all players as the Broncos recorded their second win of the season and moved up to 5th place in EIHA South Under 18 Division 3.
Man of the Match went to Owen Rider was a fine performance in the Invicta net.
The Broncos play next on Sunday 10 March, when they travel to face the Solent Junior Devils.
Gameday Photo Gallery (photos courtesy of Andy Crawford)