OUIHC, R.A.F. pre-season ice hockey match supports uni-based charity KEEN and RAF Charitable Trust

A new academic year means a new ice hockey season. The Oxford University Blues of the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club (OUIHC) opened this year’s campaign with a pre-season exhibition match against the Royal Air Force (the R.A.F. Bluewings) in support of local student-run charity, KEEN, and the R.A.F. Charitable Trust.

The Oxford Ice Rink had not seen university hockey since the 2016 OUIHC Alumni Match and men’s Varsity Match in Trinity Term of the previous year. All the players were itching to get going, with many students wearing the Dark Blue Oxford University jersey for the first time.

A long-term KEEN volunteer, Alex Kelly, dropped the puck for the ceremonial puck-drop between Blues Co-Captain Elliot Akama-Garren (St. John’s College) and Cpl. Rob Horsfall of the R.A.F.. The OUIHC’s chosen charity – KEEN – was formed almost thirty years ago and has helped countless local children and adults with special needs by providing opportunities for sport involvement and social skill development. The R.A.F. Charitable Trust work to promote the R.A.F., support its people and encourage air-mindedness and the aviation-related education of the youth.

After a quick start from both teams, it was the R.A.F. who opened the scoring, number 52, Ari GoldShmidt, beating Oxford Vikings tenured goalie Stefan Mirus after prolonged offensive zone pressure. Back and forth chances for both sides throughout the first period resulted in a narrow 3-2 RAF lead after 20 minutes.

A quick five-minute intermission and the boys in Dark Blue were back pushing the pace of the game, knowing that the next goal had to be theirs. After tireless skating and relentless pressure straight off the period’s opening faceoff, Oxford were rewarded with the equaliser, seasoned Slovakian defencemen Martin Vesely (Somerville) grabbing his first goal of the year.

Lack of defensive responsibility continued to be a trend throughout the rest of the period with both teams generating excellent scoring chances. Only the mental focus and agile reflexes of each teams’ goaltenders, reminiscent of mid-season form, kept the score close with 4-4 on the scoreboard after forty minutes of play.

Tensions reached fever-pitch as the competition spilled over into the intermission’s mini-game – chuck-a-puck – a measure of hand-eye coordination and judgement, with the aim to land a puck as close to the target as possible to win prizes. While sporting egos were at steak for bragging rights, the real winners were the charities with this mini-game proving to be a fan-favourite, increasing the fund-raising total.

With the start of the third and final period, the competition was wide open for either team to step up and take the first victory of the season. Another lapse in the Blues defensive zone led to the go-ahead goal for the R.A.F., former OUIHC Viking and Sheffield Bear, Luke Summers getting the tally, whose seeing-shot from the blue line found its way behind Oxford’s Mirus.

It took only one minute for the Blues to rally and score their fifth goal to tie the game. Fresher Kevin Deagle (St. Antony’s), fresh out of the University of Toronto, beating the R.A.F. goalie, Sam Crumbaugh, one-on-one with a beautiful move to his backhand, sliding the puck into the back of the net for his third goal on the night.

The following minutes saw Oxford take charge of the game with another tally from Deagle and fellow Canadian Joey Wenig (2nd goal of the night). With the play turning more physical between the sides, penalties ensued for both teams. A late powerplay goal (5 on 4) from returning Brookes player, Harry Geisler, whose subtle puck deflection in front of RAF’s Crumbaugh from Veselys shot, resulted in the final goal of the game. The game finished 8-5 in favour of OUIHC.

Cheers erupted from the OUIHC fans as the final buzzer went. Following the traditional post-game handshake and exchanging of beers for each teams’ Player of the Match awards (Duncan Blair, R.A.F.; Kevin Deagle, OUIHC), both teams came together for the group photo and to celebrate a fantastic game of hockey and an event that has raise funds and exposure for the chosen charities, KEEN and the R.A.F. Charitable Trust.

Much like the camaraderie amongst a hockey team, these charities work towards a sense of unity and belonging with their beneficiaries. The R.A.F.C.T. supports the development of aviation-education amongst young people, and KEEN provides social groups for children and adults who live with mental and physical impairments. KEENs advocacy for inclusion in sport regardless of age, gender and disability, was summed up by one KEEN parent, ‘[My daughter] now thinks of sport as something in which she can participate, rather than just something she watches her sister do.’

More from the OUIHC can be found on www.oxforduniversityicehockey.com and their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: OxfordUni_Ice_Hockey). KEEN Oxford can be found at www.KEENOxford.org, and their offices are located in Turl Street Kitchen. More information on the R.A.F.C.T. can obtained at www.airtatoo.com.