OXFORD Shooting Stars exceeded their expectations after returning from a competition in Europe with silverware.
The recreational team, affiliated with National League side Oxford City Stars, finished third in the Loisirs Ice Hockey Tournament in Lyon.
It was a significant step forward for the squad, the only foreign side invited to the ten-team competition, who had managed only one draw at last year’s event in Reims.
Pete Smith, Shooting Stars head coach, was thrilled with the outcome.
He said: “I’m so proud for my to team to make history and fly the flag for Oxford, expecially when two years ago most of them had never played hockey before.
“It’s an incredible achievement to get one win against European competition, but for the team to win five times and come so close, it shows how hard they work.”
A 4-1 win in the opening match against Dammerie instantly surpassed their efforts from 2013 and provided the launchpad for a successful campaign.
Nicknamed the “Crazy Green Men” by the French teams for the colour of the jerseys and the fierce pressure they exerted on the ice, Smith’s side went on to win five and draw two of their opening seven games.
It included a 3-0 victory over Grenoble.
Before the game, the Shooting Stars passed on gifts and a letter from Lord Mayor Dee Sinclair, who wished Oxford’s twin town success in the event and hoped to build on the links between the teams.
The run put the Shooting Stars top of the table with two games remaining, but their hopes were hit when Matus Michalek, later named goalkeeper of the tournament, picked up an ankle injury.
Without a back-up, they were forced to loan a replacement from another team.
The reshuffle upset the rhythm and their challenge was scuppered by defeats to Charlesville (3-0) and Mulhouse (6-1).
But disappointment was short-lived as they picked up bronze medals, along with individual awards for Clay Wesenberg, named player of the tournament, and Michalek.
Oxford Shooting Stars squad: Michalek, Hobday, Bird, Kosar, Mokris, Povey, Wesenberg, Schall, Poulter, Blake, Newnes, Wheeler, Edwards, Davies, Lepis, Parker.