Hargreaves happy, despite defeat
BRISTOL Pitbulls came just short of being the first team to beat the Oxford City Stars in the league this season.
Sam Feeney, Jack Clarkson and Matt Thornhill all scored their first goals of the season, while John Dibble made 32 saves, including a 16-shot third period shutout, before the Pitbulls eventually went down 5-3 in Oxford on Sunday night.
Oxford were led by their hat-trick hero Joe Edwards, while player-coach Darren Elliott contributed three assists to his team's efforts.
City Stars are now favourites to win the league title and the narrowness of defeat will serve as a warning to the rest of the league that Bristol's early season difficulties may be coming to an end.
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It was certainly a performance that left Bristol player/coach Richie Hargreaves in a better mood compared to recent weeks.
"Although we lost, it was a better performance than the last four games," he said. "It was hard and we are still going through some teething problems where we're making mistakes and being punished for them.
"However, it's the first game this season where I felt that we played for all 60 minutes."
After two wins and two draws in their first four games of the season, a positive attitude remains in the dressing room as players recognise that ice rink situation in the city has given Bristol the hardest start to the season.
"We've had to start the season on the road and we are now having to train away from home as well," said Hargreaves.
"That's made it hard to get into a rhythm. But, we seem to be getting the rust out of our system now. Now that we've gone through a spell of more regular games, we are getting into a routine and getting into the games much more quickly."
He added: "Guys aren't happy with the way that we've been losing. They aren't happy with their own personal games.
"Rather than retreat into their shells though, they seemed to come into this game more positive and with more energy.
"Jackson, after a two game break, played very well and created a lot of energy and turnovers for us."
That tighter schedule means that the team travel to the Isle of Wight on Sunday to play against the Wightlink Tigers, victims to a 12-3 hammering in Peterborough last weekend. It's a venue that has proven to be a popular stomping ground for the team in recent years.
"We've always played well on the island, regardless of what league we are in," said Hargreaves.
"I'm just hoping that we can take this positive vibe into their building with its small, tight ice surface and build upon last weekend's game.
"It's also a road trip that has proven popular with our away fans and, once again, we'll be taking a noisy travelling support with us.
"Hopefully, that will help make it feel like a home game and give us that final edge to come out on top."