DEAN Birrell reflected on a frustrating festive period as Oxford City Stars prepare for two big games this weekend.

The Oxpens outfit were forced to postpone their home clash with Invicta Dynamos on December 18 on the day of the match, after a Covid outbreak left them without a goalkeeper.

They have since been fined by the English Ice Hockey Association and deducted three points in NIHL Division 1 South.

Head coach Birrell said: “It was unavoidable.

“We were a bit gutted because we were riding a wave.

“It was a hard decision to make, but both our goalies were out, the back-up was unavailable and our junior goalie had broken his hand.”

Stars had won three of their previous five matches in Division 1 South so the postponement stunted their momentum, especially having only trained once before they began the new year at home to Invicta.

The home side, who were missing top-scorer Joe Edwards and Matt Croyle, conceded early in the first period.

Logan Prince equalised for Stars, but Invicta quickly hit back to lead at the interval.

They went 3-1 down, only for Alex Staples to reduce the deficit heading into the final period.

An entertaining last 20 minutes ensued, with Ross Miller forced into some impressive saves, but Stars could not grab another equaliser.

Birrell hopes Edwards could return for Saturday’s trip to Chelmsford Chieftains (5.45pm) and the home game with Solent Devils 24 hours later (6.15pm).

He said: “The one thing we lack is a goalscorer, we just need to get that puck in the net.

“Joe makes a difference when he’s on the ice.

“He leads by example not by saying, but by playing.”

Stars, who are eighth in Division 1 South, will be closer to a full complement this weekend as they look to claim their first points of 2022.

Birrell has not ruled out adding new signings to his ranks, but admits that is easier said than done.

He said: “We’re trying to bolster our squad but there’s not too much out there.

“The last two or three signings (across the league) have been players coming out of retirement.

“I think we’re happy with what we have, we’ll give most teams a game.”