Oxford City Stars’ position at the top of the table is under threat after being edged out in a nine-goal thriller against closest rivals Bracknell Hornets.
In an almost perfect season so far for the Stars, the 9-6 defeat to Bracknell Hornets in September marked the only blot on the Stars’ copybook.
It was a result Kenny Redmond’s side were anxious to avenge, especially with the Hornets close behind them in the league.
But the Hornets proved too difficult to beat, coming out as the victors in a closely fought game full of excitement.
Victors Bracknell, who have only lost one league game this season, are now four points behind Oxford, who went into the match on a 12-match winning streak, with three games in hand.
The NIHL South2 pacesetters seized a first period lead when Matthew Lawday found the back of the net within four minutes.
Stars enjoyed the lead until midway through the middle period as the Hornets stung their hosts with a three-minute double.
Benjamin Ealey-Newman (28 minutes) and Tom Fisher (31) scored to flip the game and put Bracknell in charge.
Michael Whillock responded for Oxford two minutes later but Bracknell’s Sean Scarbrough restored the lead before the final period.
The Hornets buzzed out for the third period and made it 5-2 within two minutes, Jack Tarczycki (41) and Adam Bicknell (42) extending the away side’s lead.
The Stars called an immediate time-out. And it worked, as a couple of chances from Kamil Kinkor were followed up by a shot from Joshua Oliver that slammed into the net.
With two and a half minutes remaining Oxford, still two goals behind, took Milan Ronai out of net in favour of a sixth skater, and the move paid off as Kinkor – the ninth scorer of the match – finally netted.
But there wasn’t enough time for City to equalise and the Hornets celebrated a deserved victory.
Stars will look to bounce back when they welcome Haringey Huskies (7th) to Oxpens Road on Sunday.