Oxford City Stars ice hockey club is “pumped” and ready for the new season.
The club has a new-look coaching team and playing squad after a summer of big changes at Oxpens.
Simon Anderson has returned as head coach for his fourth stint at Oxford, supported by head of hockey operations Shane Moore and net minding coach Greg Blais.
After a disappointing 2021/2022 campaign and with several older players deciding to take a break from the game or retiring and other players being released the club decided to take a fresh approach to player recruitment.
Anderson and Moore have built an exciting squad that combines young talent with experience as the club enters a period of transition.
Only 11 players were retained from last year in the new 24-man squad.
Club stalwarts Josh Florey and Alex Staples are not playing this season, while Mike Whillock has moved abroad.
However, the Stars retained several fans’ favorites including Ross Miller, Joe Edwards and captain Dax Hedges. Experienced D-Man Chris Cooke re-signed and import Jakub Kilma.
The club signed a wealth of young exciting players, including Joseph Llewellyn, Tom Stephens and Aaron Moody on a two-way from Bristol Pitbulls. Plus, Josh Abbott who scored 126 goals in 85 appearances for Guildford Phoenix in NIHL2.
It also recruited experienced campaigners Shannon Taylor and Brad Watchorn after a spell out of the game for the pair. The signing of Watchorn who is a tough competitor will add some physicality to the squad for the new campaign.
Anderson said: “It has been a busy summer and we have recruited a decent squad. We are a club in transition, and we’re excited about what we can do. We have a lot of young, fast and well drilled players and some great experience within the squad. It is a good balance. We’ve also got a bigger squad this season, which we need to manage what is an intense set of fixtures.
“It is a tough league, but we are ready to compete and see where it takes us. We want to take the club forward and get stronger year on year. We’re pumped and can’t wait to get started this weekend and hope to see loads of fans packing out Oxpens and helping make the difference. We want to give everyone a team to be proud of.”
The Stars begin the new season this weekend, with a road trip to Slough Jets on Saturday for the first NIHL Division One South league fixture (6.30pm) and a home fixture against Streatham IHC on Sunday in the cup (6.15pm).
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Ross Miller: aged 27. Retained for his third season at Oxford. Signed from Bristol Pitbulls and also previously played for Cardiff Devils NIHL. The Welshman was voted players’ player of the season at the end of the 2021/2022 campaign.
Aaron Burton: aged 23. An Oxford Junior Club graduate who has previously played for the Stars before establishing himself at Basingstoke Buffalo, where he played 16 times last season.
Greg Blais: aged 42. Netminding coach and back-up netminder. Blais has a wealth of experience having played at a high level in multiple countries including Canada, America, Belgium, France, Norway and the UK. The Canadian joined Oxford in 2021.
Chris Cooke: aged 27. Retained from last season for his second season at Oxford. The experienced D-Man previously played in the EPIHL for Guildford Flames and in NIHL1 for clubs including Invicta Dynamos, Streatham IHC, Basinstoke Bison and Bracknell Hornets.
Tom Ravenscroft: aged 22. The Oxford born D-Man returns for his third season with the Stars. A graduate of the Okanagan Hockey Academy Ravenscroft has developed extensively in the past two seasons at Oxford to become a key member of the squad.
Michal Drobny: aged 22. Slovakian previously played for Coventry Blaze at U18 and U20 and in 2019 he iced for Oxford University Blues and later for Oxford Vikings. He spent the last two seasons in Canada where he played 26 times for Edson Eagles in the Greater Metro Hockey League. Signed after impressing in open trials in the summer, as a prospect.
Joseph Llewellyn: aged 20. Signed on a two-way from Bristol Pitbulls. Llewellyn represented England U23 last season and played 30 times for the Pitbulls in NIHL Division One South.
Tom Stephens: aged 19. Signed on a two-way from Bristol Pitbulls where he played 27 matches last season.
Marcus Mitchell: aged 24. Signed in the summer from Guildford Phoenix, where he was assistant captain.
Brad Watchorn: aged 32. Can play defence and forward. Signed for the Stars in the summer after a period out of the game.He is also an MMA fighter.
Sam Shone: aged 31. Has played most of his career at Bristol Pitbulls and Slough Jets and is no stranger to Stars’ fans – after icing for Oxford in the 2019/2020 season.
Jakub Klima: aged 32. Klima, 32, is looking forward to playing his first full campaign at the Stars, having joined the club mid-way through last season, scoring eight goals, following a long period out of the game. The Czech national has previously played for clubs including Nottingham Lions, Milton Keynes Thunder and Chelmsford Warriors.
Shannon Taylor: aged 31. Signed in the summer after a prolonged period out of the game. He has previously played at Oxford on two occasions, scoring 20 goals for the Stars across the two campaigns. He has also played for clubs including Swindon Wildcats and Bristol Pitbulls. #
Josh Abbott: aged 26. The 26-year-old scored 126 goals in 85 appearances across four seasons for Guildford Phoenix in NIHL2. He attracted a lot of attention from NIHL1 clubs this summer, but the Stars won the race to sign him.
Aaron Moody: aged 20. Signed on a two-way from Bristol Pitbulls. Moody played 26 matches for the Pitbulls last season and scored six goals. He spent the 2020/21 season in the US, where he played for New York Aviators and New Jersey Hitmen.
Carter Lloyd: Lloyd signed for the Stars in the summer. He has played most of his ice hockey in Cardiff and after graduating from the Devils’ juniors iced for Cardiff Fire for four seasons. Last season he played 13 games for Fire and 20 for Bristol Pitbulls via a two-way agreement, scoring 13 goals in total.
Logan Prince: aged 24. Returns for his third season at Oxford. Previously played for clubs including MK Thunder and Bristol Pitbulls. Can play forward and defence.
Xander Wardlaw: aged 22. Australian forward Xander Wardlaw joined from Sydney Bears for his first season in the UK. Wardlaw scored five goals in 17 appearances for the Bears last season.
Josh Oliver: aged 29. Has been a mainstay of the Stars over many years and scored 170 goals for the club.
Dax Hedges: aged 32. Club Captain returns for his 15th season at Oxford.
Joe Edwards: aged 32. Last season’s top points scorer and fans’ favourite Edwards put pen to paper this week to
commit to his home-town club. The Stars’ stalwart who has amassed 168 goals for the Stars across his career has reached an agreement with the club to play on a week-by-week basis this season. With his partner expecting their second child this autumn, Edwards will require some time out during the season.
Matt Lawday: aged 31-year-old. Returns for his fifth campaign at the club. Lawday has scored 65 in 111 appearances for the Stars.
Jake Williams: aged 20-year-old. Has appeared for the Stars 50 times has signed for his third season at Oxpens.
Theo Bundock: aged 23. Signed for the Stars in the summer, after scoring 11 goals in 30 appearances last season. The Stars have agreed a 2-way arrangement with development club Oxford Rising Stars for Bundock to play for the NIHL2 side. Theo will train with both the Stars and the Rising Stars and play for the Stars on occasion. The 2-way deal provides Bundock with more ice time in Oxford and more opportunities to develop his game.