The Raiders have a tough weekend ahead as they take on the Oxford City Stars in the quarterfinals of the National League South Division One playoffs, but the revitalized squad are ready to prove themselves once more.
The Stars were the Raiders most recent opposition before the season ended, and both teams have achieved solid results against each other, with two draws and a win for each side.
Oxford City showed strong character Sunday before last against London as the Stars took a dominant lead on the visiting Raiders, who struggled to get in the game.
But the Raiders had the heart and strength to fight back, managing to save the result and gain a dramatic draw as the Stars were overwhelmed by the grit and a determination from the East London club.
Raiders CEO John Scott said, “That was a play-off performance in the last period and will give the players a lot of confidence going into the playoffs against the same team.”
Determination and focus will be key now that the playoffs have arrived, and the Raiders will need to show that confidence that Scott hopes they have, in order to put on their best performance.
Scott elaborated, “That confidence will be high for the weekend’s games and the Raiders will genuinely believe that they can progress, although the second fixture at Oxford will be a noisy, intimidating affair as games in the Oxpens Road rink always are.”
The Raiders have always found the Oxford ice rink a tricky place to play thanks to the passionate Stars fan who make the arena a den of intimidation for visiting teams. However, hopes are high for the Raiders as they are ready to go all in and take their chances once again.
The reward for winning against Oxford City would be a fixture in the semi-finals against league champions Chelmsford Chieftains or against their quarterfinals opponents, Bracknell Hornets, although the Essex side are heavily favoured to defeat Bracknell.
However, for the Raiders to reach the semifinals will require some incredibly good performances from the players, Scott said.
“We’re playing for a place against Chelmsford in the semi-finals. For the Raiders to progress past Chelmsford then every single player will have to be at the top of their game,” Scott said.
“Anyone can win!”
Scott believes that his team is more than capable—but he also knows that Oxford City, along with all the other teams in the quarterfinals, are very much in contention.
“The playoffs can be won by anyone,” Scott pointed out. “Where the league has been won by a runaway leader, such as Chelmsford this season, the other teams will still maintain their efforts and energy knowing the playoffs can still be won.”
The Raiders will receive a vital boost ahead of their fixtures against the Stars, though, as two fundamental players, leading scorer and Slovakian international Marek Nahlik and leading British scorer JJ Pitchley are back in the team following an injury and suspension, respectively.
The Raiders will play the first leg of the quarterfinals at the Lee Valley Ice Arena on Saturday with puck drop at 5:30 pm. The action then will shift to Oxpens Road where the Stars will host London at 6:15 on Sunday.