OXFORD City Stars are back with a bang after sweeping past Coventry NIHL Blaze.

Dean Birrell’s side overcame their opponents 8-0 in the West Midlands, before sealing a 7-0 victory at Oxpens 24 hours later.

The double-header saw ice hockey return for Stars after a 542-day absence, as they prepare for the start of the NIHL Division One South season next weekend.

It saw Birrell take charge of his first match, despite being appointed 18 months ago, and the head coach toasted a successful start.

He said: “It was a very productive weekend, with lots of positives.

“Full credit to Coventry, who worked hard throughout and made us play all the way.

“I was pleased we kept our defence intact and that we shared the goals around. It is a good start and I couldn’t ask for more.

“We saw a lot of good things in the squad and plenty of positives to build on.

We are not getting carried away, we have a lot to do and we can’t wait for the league now.”

Griff Eden-Parish, Lex Smith, Logan Prince and Dan Williams all scored their first goals for Stars, while there were two shut-outs for new netminder Matt Croyle.

Attention now turns to their opening-day visit to champions Streatham Redhawks next Saturday, before they host Slough Jets on September 19.

The pandemic meant a season on the sidelines – but now Stars are raring to go.

“It was a great feeling to finally be out there,” said Birrell.

“The support was excellent and Oxpens will be a real fortress for us this season.

“I want to make it a very difficult place for teams to visit.

“The mood at the club is really strong and everyone is together.

“We’ve got a tough start to the league, but we’re up for it and ready to go.

“We’ll need our supporters right behind us as always.”