Smith Stars on Debut as Lions Lose to Pitbulls

The Lee Valley Lions took on the Bristol Pitbulls on Saturday, with the home side still looking for their first points of the season.

The Lions once again had a multitude of players missing, leaving the home side with just 11 skaters as well as netminders James Andrew and Steve Grout. The hosts did hand a debut to 17-year-old Conner Smith, the former Streatham junior making his first appearance in senior hockey. Bristol brought 17 skaters as well as starting netminder Andrew Leckie and backup Ross Miller.

First Period – The opening period was not a good one for the Lions, as they started off slowly and gifted the Pitbulls a few early goals. Olly Shone (3:02, assisted Richard Hargreaves and Adrian Smith) opened the scoring just over three minutes in, and Giacomo Raffaelli (4:30, unassisted) doubled the visitors’ advantage just a minute and a half later. And it was to be 3-0 in favour of the Pitbulls in the ninth minute too, as Steve Osman (8:23, assisted A. Smith and Sam Shone) buried the puck past James Andrew in the Lions net – this despite the Lions creating two great chances just moments earlier, both coming through Joe Berry.

There were to be two further Pitbulls goals in the period too, as the scoreline started to get away from the home side; Grant Richardson (12:28, assisted David Manning and R. Hargreaves) made it 4-0 on the powerplay with Lions defenceman Jake Wadge in the box for hooking, before A. Smith (18:47, assisted O. Shone) completed the scoring for the period, making it 5-0 going into the first break. The Lions managed 13 shots in the first period, but scored on none of them whereas the Pitbulls converted five of the 23 that they attempted.

Second Period – Whatever Lions player-coach James Joseph said in the first intermission, it obviously worked – the Lions came out far better in the second period, looking more organised at the back and also more confident up front. They scored just 34 seconds into the period, Conner Smith (20:34, assisted James O’Brien and Tom Hnilica) scoring his first goal in senior hockey in his first senior game, after a lovely stretch pass by O’Brien set him off on a breakaway.

And things got even better for the hosts in the 29th minute, with Czech forward Tom Hnilica (28:12, assisted Gus Zimmerman) being fed a lovely pass by Gus Zimmerman and duly burying it past Leckie in the Pitbulls net. It was Hnilica’s seventh goal of the season, with Zimmerman picking up his fourth assist in just his fourth game in a Lions jersey. The Lions also thought they had a third goal, Smith putting the puck home but being adjudged to have been standing in the crease at the time, and thus the goal was washed out.

Sadly for the Lions, the Pitbulls got one back in the 33rd minute through Josh Galea (32:20, assisted Jamie Newton and Osman), who scored on the powerplay with Jake Wadge again in the box, this time for tripping. This didn’t put the Lions off though, and they created multiple chances towards the end of the period – with Hnilica, Joseph and Zimmerman all going close – but there was to be no more scoring in the period, as the Pitbulls led 6-2 going into the second break, having outshot the Lions 21-14 but losing the period by a score of 2-1.

Third Period – In the final period, the short bench of the Lions started to show as they made a few tired plays and let the Pitbulls extend their advantage; first Osman (42:55, assisted Newton and Galea) and then O. Shone (44:09, assisted A. Smith) scored to make the score 8-2 with over 15 minutes still to play. The Lions did come close to scoring a few times shortly after, with both Berry and Michael Jacobs testing Leckie in the Bristol net.

Things got even tougher for a tiring Lions team as Joe Trotter took a 2+10 for boarding with ten minutes left, effectively ending his evening; while Bristol did not score on that powerplay, they scored on another one soon after as Osman (53:06, assisted Jack Hayes) completed his hat-trick and made it 9-2 with Conner Smith in the box, before O. Shone (55:16, assisted Manning) completed his own hat-trick and made it 10-2 in the 56th minute.

The home side did give their fans something to cheer about late on, C. Smith (57:02) scoring his second of the night on the breakaway, before a crazy ending that saw three goals scored within the last two minutes of the game; Bristol made it 11-3 through Newton (58:12, assisted O. Shone and Michael Hargreaves), the Lions got it back to 11-4 as Zimmerman (59:11, assisted Hnilica and C. Smith) scored his first goal as a Lion, and finally Richardson (59:27, assisted Osman and A. Smith) scored Bristol’s 12th and rounded out the score for the evening.

After a crazy game in which they conceded five unanswered goals in the first period, won the second period 2-1, then tired in the third to lose the period 6-2 and the game 12-4, the Lions will look back at this one with mixed emotions. If they can play like they did in the second period over a full 60 minutes, they have a real chance of taking that elusive first win of the season really soon.

Connor Smith was awarded Man of the Match for a brilliant debut, in which he scored two goals and assisted a further one while looking threatening all night, while Olly Shone took home the award for the visitors.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 4-12 Bristol Pitbulls

Period Scores: 0-5/2-1/2-6

Shots: Lee Valley 43-81 Bristol (13-23/14-21/16-37)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 22-6 Bristol

Scorers: Lee Valley – Conner Smith 2+1, Tom Hnilica 1+2, Gus Zimmerman 1+1, James O’Brien 0+1
Bristol – Steve Osman 3+2, Olly Shone 3+2, Adrian Smith 1+4, Jamie Newton 1+2, Grant Richardson 2+0, Josh Galea 1+1, David Manning 0+2, Richard Hargreaves 0+2, Giacomo Raffaelli 1+0, Sam Shone 0+1, Michael Hargreaves 0+1, Jack Hayes 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 81 shots/12 goals against)
Bristol – Andrew Leckie (60:00 played, 43 shots/4 goals against)

Man of the Match – Conner Smith (Lee Valley), Olly Shone (Bristol)

The Lee Valley Lions are next in action at home on Saturday 15th December against the Solent Devils, and again the following day against the Chelmsford Chieftains. Faceoff at Lee Valley Ice Centre for both games will be at 17:30.

Lions Show Improvement in Oxford Defeat

The Lee Valley Lions welcomed reigning league champions, the Oxford City Stars, to the Den on Sunday evening. Oxford were lying second in the league while the Lions were still searching for their first win of the season, so it was sure to be a tough task for the home side.

It was not made any easier by the fact that a number of Lions players were unavailable for the fixture, leaving the home side with just 11 skaters as well as netminders James Andrew and Steve Grout, the latter returning after a few weeks out injured. Oxford brought 17 skaters as well as starting netminder Mark Duffy and backup John Dibble.

First Period – Oxford started the game extremely well, scoring five goals within the first eleven minutes of the game as they showed what a skilled team they are. Matthew LawdayMichal OravecTom DavisDarren Elliott and Josh Oliver all got on the scoresheet for the visitors within the first 10:55 of the game, and it looked like the scoreline could get very high indeed. This is not to say that the Lions didn’t have chances – Joe Berry in particular was lively and created a few scoring opportunities for the home side, as did Richard Hodge and Gus Zimmerman, but the puck didn’t want to go into the net for Lee Valley in the early stages.

Credit to the Lions who knuckled down after conceding those five goals, tightening up at the back and not conceding again in the remainder of the first period. Zimmerman in particular was impressive on the blueline – he had played as a forward in his previous two games in a Lions jersey, so showed his versatility in this game by helping out at the back with a number of defencemen not able to play. The Lions also finished the period off well, as they scored their first goal of the game through Berry (18:33, assisted Richard Hodge) to make the score 5-1 in favour of Oxford going into the first intermission.

Second Period – The Lions’ hopes were further dashed at the start of the second period when Oliver Glover was unable to continue in the game, so the home side were down to ten skaters for the remainder of the contest. However, the Lions were again solid at the start of the middle period, holding off Oxford’s forwards and creating some chances of their own with Michael Jacobs, Czech forward Tom Hnilica and the aforementioned Gus Zimmerman – now playing as a forward – all coming close to further reducing the deficit.

Oxford did manage to score another goal in the 28th minute of the game to make it 6-1, with Jake Florey (27:26, assisted Josh Oliver) grabbing the goal, but the Lions will have been happy with the 17 minute gap between Oxford’s fifth and sixth goals. The home side would have been even happier just a minute and a half later as Hnilica (28:52, assisted James Joseph and Berry) raced through on a breakaway and finished past Duffy with a slick backhander to reduce the deficit to 6-2.

As the period went on, the ten men of the home side did start to tire; and the champions took full advantage as they scored three more goals through Lee Richardson and two from Joe Edwards; this meant that the score was 9-2 in favour of the visitors heading into the second break.

Third Period – The Lions’ aim for the third period would have been to stick to their systems and not give up a deluge of final period goals as they had done in the recent games against Haringey and Bracknell; this aim looked in danger just four minutes into the period as Oxford scored twice to make the score 11-2, Lawday (42:25, assisted Edwards and Dominic Hopkins) and then Oravec (43:30, assisted Elliott and Josh Oliver) doing the damage.

The Lions switched netminders at this point with Steve Grout replacing James Andrew, and this seemed to give the Lions the lift they needed to see out the rest of the game without conceding too many more goals. Although the visitors did make it 12-2 through a hat-trick goal from Lawday (46:07, assisted Hopkins and Davis), the home side then went the next twelve minutes without conceding again, as they kept their heads up and continued to work hard despite tired legs all around.

The home side scored their third goal of the game too as Berry (53:50, assisted Joseph and Jake Wadge) bagged his second goal of the game and got the score back to 12-3. And while Oxford finished off the scoring with just a few minutes left as Harry Harrison (58:52, assisted Elliott) scored a short-handed goal – following a 5+game penalty against Oxford forward Michal Oravec for high-sticking –  the Lions would have been somewhat content with the 13-3 final score considering it was against probably the toughest opponent they had faced this season to date.

After only scoring one goal in two games the previous weekend, the Lions managed to score three goals in this game against the champions; while the defence looked more solid and composed in this game compared to the last few, despite being low on numbers. Man of the Match for the Lions was the versatile Gus Zimmerman who impressed both as a defenceman and as a forward, while Joe Edwards took home the same award for the visitors.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 3-13 Oxford City Stars

Period Scores: 1-5/1-4/1-4

Shots: Lee Valley 22-69 Oxford (8-21/5-29/7-19)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 4-31 Oxford

Scorers: Lee Valley – Joe Berry 2+1, James Joseph 0+2, Tom Hnilica 1+0, Jake Wadge 0+1, Richard Hodge 0+1
Oxford – Matthew Lawday 3+2, Joe Edwards 2+2, Michal Oravec 2+2, Josh Oliver 1+3, Darren Elliott 1+3, Jake Florey 1+1, Tom Davis 1+1, Lee Richardson 1+1, Harry Harrison 1+1, Dominic Hopkins 0+2, Josh Florey 0+1, Macaulay Coppock 0+1, Conor Redmond 0+1, Alexander Staples 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (43:30 played, 53 shots/11 goals against); Steve Grout (16:30 played, 16 shots/2 goals against)
Oxford – Mark Duffy (60:00 played, 22 shots/3 goals against)

Man of the Match – Gus Zimmerman (Lee Valley), Joe Edwards (Oxford)

The Lee Valley Lions are next in action at home on Saturday 1st December against the Bristol Pitbulls. Faceoff at Lee Valley Ice Centre will be at 17:30.

The Lions gave a good account of themselves in defeat against the reigning champions (Photo: Tori Rigby)

Haringey and Romford Match Reports

The Lions played two road games last weekend, making short journeys to Haringey on Saturday to take on the Hornets, and Romford on Sunday to take on the NIHL2 Raiders.

Saturday at Haringey

The Lions arrived at Alexandra Palace with 15 skaters – missing were Jack Ball, Ben Gillingham, Joe Trotter, Joe Weare and Gus Zimmerman. Starting in goal was James Andrew.

First Period – For the second game in a row, the Lions were stung by a soft early goal as Haringey struck first through Gheorghe Dragomir (0:32). Following this early shock, the Lions battled back well and played one of their best periods of the season to date, creating several chances but not finding a way past David Wride in the Haringey net. And the Huskies made them pay late in the period as Dragomir (17:12) got his second of the night following a Lions defensive breakdown, with the Huskies leading 2-0 going into the first intermission.

Second Period – The Lions started the second period well and created a few opportunities, but as the period wore on the Huskies started to dominate possession more and created more chances of their own. The visitors also ran into penalty trouble, taking four minor penalties on the period, and the Huskies punished them with two powerplay goals as well as an even-handed marker – all three coming through Stephen Woodford – to lead 5-0 after two periods.

Third Period – The Lions came into the last period looking to get some goals back and make a game of it, but instead seemed to lose their energy and focus as the home side exerted their dominance and scored seven further goals. Stuart Appleby, Ricky Rutherford (x2), Ashlee Cave, Mark Robinson, Bryn Griffiths and Ben Osborne all did the damage as the Huskies ran rampant and pushed the score up to 12-0. Two of those goals came when the Huskies were shorthanded, while Robinson’s marker was on the powerplay.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions were left to rue the chances they didn’t take in the first two periods, as well as a disastrous third period in which they conceded seven goals. Man of the Match for the Lions was Michael Jacobs.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Haringey Huskies 12-0 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 2-0/5-0/7-0

Shots: Haringey Huskies 64-22 Lee Valley Lions (17-9/23-6/24-7)

Penalty Minutes: Haringey Huskies 32-20 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Haringey – Gheorghe Dragomir 2+3, Stephen Woodford 3+1, Mark Robinson 1+2, Ricky Rutherford 2+0, Stuart Appleby 1+1, Ben Osborne 1+1, Bryn Griffiths 1+0, Ashlee Cave 1+0, Jack Lee 0+1, David Wride 0+1, Sebastian Downing 0+1

Goaltenders: Haringey – David Wride (60:00 played, 22 shots/0 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 64 shots/12 goals against)

Man of the Match – Michael Jacobs (Lee Valley)

Sunday in Romford

The Lions took an almost identical lineup to Romford as had played in the previous night’s game, with the exception of Nicky Brathwaite who missed out and was replaced by a returning Gus Zimmerman.

First Period – The Lions came out well to start against the NIHL2 Raiders, determined to avoid a one-sided scoreline like that of the previous night. Despite an improved showing however, the Lions came unstuck several times during the period as individual errors cost them several goals. The Raiders scored four goals in the period, Alan Lack, Jake Hall, George Gell and Sam Roberts all getting the scoresheet, while the Lions couldn’t find a way past impressive Raiders netminder Brad Windebank so went into the first break trailing 4-0, despite a relative close shot count of 15-11 in favour of Romford.

Second Period – The following period was more of the same; the Lions hustled and worked hard to create chances but couldn’t beat Windebank, while at the other end, the hosts found ways to capitalise on mistakes and bury the puck. Just like in the first period, the Raiders scored four goals – these coming through Kamil Kinkor, Gell with his second of the night, Matthew Hamilton and Bailey Chittock. The Lions didn’t back down, actually outshooting the Raiders 13-12 during the period, but could not find that elusive goal so trailed 8-0 after two.

Third Period – The Raiders made it 10-0 in the first half of the final period, Ewan Hill scoring the ninth goal of the night and Chittock scoring his second of the evening to put the home side into double figures. The Lions continued to fight hard though, and were rewarded in the 54th minute as Tom Hnilica (53:15, assisted Gus Zimmerman and Joshua Irish) grabbed his fifth goal of the season to finally put the Lions on the board for the weekend and reduce the deficit to 10-1.

There was to be no more scoring in the game, but there was late drama as Raiders captain Sam Roberts checked Lions player-coach James Joseph hard with just four seconds left in the game, receiving a 2+10 for checking to the head for the hit. Lions defenceman Jake Wadge dropped the gloves and stood up for his teammate as he fought with Roberts. This did not affect the outcome of the game however, as the home side came away with a 10-1 win. Joe Berry took home the Man of the Match award for the Lions.

It was a frustrating weekend overall for the Lions; strong first and second periods on Saturday, and a strong third period on Sunday, bookending some disappointing periods of play in between. Next up for the Lions is a home game this coming Sunday against reigning league champions Oxford – faceoff will be at 17:30.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Romford NIHL2 Raiders 10-1 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 4-0/4-0/2-1

Shots: Raiders 44-32 Lee Valley Lions (15-11/12-13/17-8)

Penalty Minutes: Raiders 32-6 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Raiders –George Gell 2+3, Bailey Chittock 2+1, Ewan Hill 1+2, Kamil Kinkor 1+2, Matt Brown 0+3,Alan Lack 1+1, Sam Roberts 1+1, Matt Hamilton 1+0, Jake Hall 1+0, Thomas Baptist 0+1, Daniel Hitchings 0+1, Tommy Huggett 0+1
Lee Valley – Tom Hnilica 1+0, Joshua Irish 0+1, Gus Zimmerman 0+1

Goaltenders: Raiders – Brad Windebank (60:00 played, 32 shots/1 goal against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 44 shots/10 goals against)

Man of the Match – Joe Berry (Lee Valley)

The Lions suffered two road defeats against Haringey and Romford (Photo: Tori Rigby)

Lions Outclassed by Hornets

It was a tough night at the office for the Lions against Bracknell (Photo: Tori Rigby)

The Lee Valley Lions faced a stiff test on Sunday night, playing host to the Bracknell Hornets. The Hornets were flying high in fourth place in the standings, while the Lions were still searching for their first win of the season.

The Lions were unable to call on the services of Joe Miller, Gus Zimmerman, Ben Gillingham, Jordan Sullivan, Joe Weare or Jack Ball for this game, but handed a debut to defenceman Jake Wadge. This gave them 13 skaters, with Steve Grout starting in goal and James Andrew backing up.

The Hornets travelled to Lee Valley with 15 skaters plus netminders Will Sanderson and Rory Edwards. The Bracknell side featured many players who have previously played at a higher level, so looked sure to give the Lions a very tough game.

First Period – The Lions unfortunately slipped back into an old habit of conceding a goal very early in the game, as the Hornets went 1-0 up after just 38 seconds; Daniel Clayton (0:38, assisted Josh Ealey-Newman and Ben Ealey-Newman) slotting past Grout after good build-up play from the Ealey-Newman brothers. Lions fans would have been forgiven for expecting an onslaught to follow, but instead in the next few minutes of the game the home side were able to stabilise themselves and create a few chances of their own which Sanderson in the Hornets net could turn away.

At the other end. Bracknell captain Jack Tarczycki then hit the pipes twice in quick succession with hard slapshots as the Hornets started to exert their authority on the game. However the Lions were able to tie the score up just after the five minute mark, Michael Jacobs (5:14, assisted Nicky Brathwaite) getting his second goal in as many games after scoring his first of the season last week in Cardiff.

For the next five minutes following the opening goal, the Lions gave a good account of themselves and kept the score at 1-1, until the Hornets went back into the lead just past the 10 minute mark; Steve Fisher (10:19, assisted Harvey Hind-Pitcher) putting them back in front. Worse was to follow for the Lions shortly after as starting netminder Steve Grout took a puck to the helmet and had to leave the ice, to be replaced by James Andrew. And shortly after Andrew had come into the net, the Hornets extended their lead to 3-1 through J. Ealey-Newman (13:25, assisted B. Ealey-Newman and Connor Hutchison) with Lions forward Nicky Brathwaite in the box for tripping.

A flurry of Hornets goals then followed to extend the score to 6-1, with B. Ealey-Newman (14:12, assisted J. Ealey-Newman and Matt Jordan)J. Ealey-Newman (16:21, assisted Conor Sheehan) and Liam Rasmussen (19:34, assisted Fisher and Tarczycki) all doing the damage. However there was still time in the period for the Lions to get one back, Czech forward Tom Hnilica (19:51, assisted Ollie Glover and Michael Jacobs) sniping past Sanderson for his fourth goal of the season to get the score back to 6-2 at the end of period one.

Second Period – The Hornets swapped netminders to begin the second period, with 16-year-old Rory Edwards replacing Sanderson between the pipes. And he was called into action in the first few minutes of the period as the Lions looked to get back in the game, stopping chances from Nicky Brathwaite and Simon Jones to keep the Lions at bay.

The Hornets then effectively put the game to bed in the 27th minute with a spell of three goals within 35 seconds; Jakub Fojtik (26:12, assisted Hutchison and Luke Jackson)Fojtik again (26:35, assisted William Stead) and Fisher (26:47, assisted Rasmussen and Jordan) increasing the score to 9-2. The Hornets then could have extended the lead even further – James O’Brien brought down a Bracknell forward on the breakaway and a penalty shot was awarded – but James Andrew denied Steve Fisher on the subsequent penalty shot.

However the Hornets did grab the tenth goal just after the half hour mark, Fojtik (30:03, assisted Hind-Pitcher and Stead) completing his hat-trick, before Rasmussen (31:47, assisted Fisher and Cameron Barker) made it 11-2 soon afterwards. The Lions tried to create some chances, with Jacobs coming close to his second of the game but being denied by Edwards, before the Hornets rounded out the scoring for the second period as B. Ealey-Newman (38:44, unassisted) made it 12-2.

Third Period – The final period of the game was really a question of whether the Hornets would dial it back against their tiring opponents – but this question was answered with an emphatic “no” just 56 seconds into the period as J. Ealey-Newman (40:56, assisted Fojtik) made it an unlucky 13 for the Lions and completed his hat-trick too. The Lions still pressured the away side, looking to score a few goals and get some pride back in the game – Joe Berry went close on two separate occasions but both times he was denied by Edwards in the Hornets net.

However as the period went on, the Lions got more and more tired, while the Hornets showed all of their skill and speed on the puck as they punished their opponents with a flurry of goals. B. Ealey-Newman, Clayton (x2), Fojtik, J. Ealey-Newman, Stead and Tarczycki all netted between the 46th and 57th minutes to push the score up to 20-2, with almost every Hornets attack seemingly leading to a goal as they turned on the style.

Despite the hugely one-sided scoreline, the Lions still tried their best to at least get a goal or two back; Tom Hnilica came closest with an accurate shot but Edwards in the Hornets net stood firm once again. The away side completed their scoring in the final minute of the game as Tomas Gilheany (59:03, assisted Fisher) made it 21-2; but there was still time for the Lions to give their fans something to cheer as Yasin Sridhar – usually a defenceman but deployed as a forward in this game – grabbed his first goal for the Lions (59:59, assisted Glover and Brathwaite) with a buzzer-beater right at the end of the game.

Michael Jacobs took home the Man of the Match award for the Lions after being involved in all three goals (he picked up one goal and two assists), while the Hornets’ 16-year-old netminder Rory Edwards took home the award for the visitors having only been beaten right at the end of the game.

A night to forget for a Lions side that is still finding chemistry and adding new players to the roster, as they were outclassed by a Hornets side that showed why they are eleven places above the Lions in the league. The Lions will now regroup and look to take something from next weekend’s two away games in Haringey and Romford.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 3-21 Bracknell Hornets

Period Scores: 2-6/0-6/1-9

Shots: Lee Valley Lions 19-73 Bracknell Hornets (7-25/5-23/7-25)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 8-4 Bracknell Hornets

Scorers: Lee Valley – Michael Jacobs 1+2, Ollie Glover 0+2, Tom Hnilica 1+0, Yasin Sridhar 1+0, Nicky Brathwaite 0+1
Bracknell – Steve Fisher 2+5, Josh Ealey-Newman 4+2, Jakub Fojtik 4+2, Ben Ealey-Newman 3+2, William Stead 1+4, Daniel Clayton 3+1, Connor Hutchison 0+4, Liam Rasmussen 2+1, Jack Tarczycki 1+2, Tomas Gilheany 1+1, Luke Jackson 0+2, Matt Jordan 0+2, Harvey Hind-Pitcher 0+2, Cameron Barker 0+1, Conor Sheehan 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – Steve Grout (13:12 played, 13 shots/2 goals against); James Andrew (46:48 played, 60 shots/19 goals against)
Bracknell – Will Sanderson (20:00 played, 7 shots/2 goals against); Rory Edwards (40:00 played. 12 shots/1 goal against)

Man of the Match – Michael Jacobs (Lee Valley), Rory Edwards (Bracknell)

The Lee Valley Lions play two away games this upcoming weekend: on Saturday 10th November we visit Alexandra Palace to face Haringey, while on Sunday we travel to the Sapphire in Romford to take on the NIHL2 Raiders. Faceoff for both games will be 17:30.

Spirited Lions Downed in Cardiff

The Lions put in a spirited performance on the road in Cardiff, ultimately going down 10-2. (Photo: Laura Eaketts)

Following an improved showing at home against Haringey the previous weekend, the Lee Valley Lions were looking to continue that upturn in form on Sunday as they travelled to Cardiff to take on the Fire.

It would be no easy task however, with several players unavailable for the long Sunday night trip to south Wales; the likes of Ben Gillingham, Joe Berry, Richard Hodge, Joshua Irish, Joe Weare and Jack Ball were unable to make the trip and thus the Lions arrived in the Welsh capital rather short-benched. However the visitors did hand a debut to new signing Gus Zimmerman, who joins the club after a number of years playing university hockey for the Imperial Devils.

The Fire dressed 18 skaters as well as starting netminder James Whiting and back-up – and player-coach – Chris Douglas.

First Period – Just like against Haringey last week, the Lions came out strong defensively to begin the game and did not concede an early goal, which has been an issue in several games this season. They did take a few minor penalties in the early stages – Joe Trotter, Michael Jacobs and Simon Jones all taking trips to the penalty box in the first ten minutes – but they were able to kill all of these penalties off with James Andrew making some great saves in the Lions net.

It took the hosts just over 17 minutes to finally grab their first goal, which came through Lewis Stevens (17:08, assisted Chris Fox) with the assist coming through former Lions forward Chris Fox. And the hosts doubled their advantage when Tom Hnilica took the visitors’ fourth penalty of the game late on in the first period, Stephen Deacon (19:16, assisted Jordan Powell and Alan Armour) making it 2-0 on the powerplay. There was to be no more scoring in the period, with the Lions heading into the break only two goals down and still very much in the game.

Second Period – The Lions’ cause wasn’t helped at the start of the second period when netminder James Andrew was involved in a collision with a Cardiff forward. He was able to continue but it seemed to put him off his game in the early stages of the period, with the visitors striking three times within the first five minutes to take a 5-0 lead; firstly Samual Bryant (20:46, assisted Tamas Elias and Jackson Price) scored just 46 seconds into the period, before Elliott Murdoch (22:06, assisted Cameron Basnett and Viktor Langseth) and Jackson Price (23:48, assisted Ross Wilkinson) grabbed two more in quick succession.

The visitors were able to calm the game down after this – and despite the tired legs that were starting to creep in, the Lions stayed disciplined and did not take a single penalty in the period, making some good defensive plays while Andrew continued to make some top saves as well. Eventually Cardiff’s pressure and larger bench came to the fore however, as they scored three more goals to put the game to bed; Elias (29:05, assisted Bryant and Price), Stevens (32:04, assisted Deacon and Powell) and Morgan Evans (37:09, assisted Price and Phil Manny) doing the damage.

The Lions did have something to celebrate late in the period though as they scored their first goal of the game, Tom Hnilica (38:27, assisted Michael Jacobs and Gus Zimmerman) finishing past James Whiting after nice build-up play with Jacobs and newcomer Zimmerman. There was to be no further scoring in the period, with the Lions trailing 8-1 after two.

Third Period – The Lions came out quickly at the start of period three and got another goal back just 39 seconds in, Michael Jacobs (40:39, assisted Zummerman and Hnilica) scoring his first goal of the season – and indeed his first for the club since the 2008-09 season – after more good build-up play between the trio of Jacobs, Hnilica and Zimmerman.

Soon afterwards, Zimmerman would take a 2+10 for boarding, which put Cardiff on the powerplay and allowed them to score their ninth goal of the evening through Bryant (42:55, assisted Price and Wilkinson) to go 9-2 up. Four minutes later, they reached double figures through Joe Morris (46:10, assisted Price) and it looked like the score might ramp up in the latter stages.

But despite the short bench, the Lions fought hard right until the final whistle, defending well and creating a few chances of their own as the time ticked down. The home side were unable to score any more goals in the last 14 minutes of the game, with the visitors holding firm and keeping the score at 10-2.

There was a scary moment late in the game when Cardiff’s Ross Wilkinson needed medical attention after a mid-ice collision; however he was able to make it back out onto the ice for the post-match handshakes following the final buzzer.

The match ended 10-2 to the home side, with the Lions giving a good account of themselves and playing with an impressive team spirit. Despite having the shortest bench of any away game so far this season, the Lions kept the scoreline at a respectable level – it was the smallest number of goals they have conceded in an away game so far this campaign – and the visitors also managed to score two goals on the road for only the second time this season. There is still a lot of work for the Lions to do – but the season is yet young, and signs of improvement are there.

Netminder James Andrew took home the Man of the Match award for the Lions after making 67 saves in the game, while the trio of Jacobs-Hnilica-Zimmerman also impressed for the visitors with some great chemistry. The Lions will now look to build further on the last few performances when they host Bracknell next Sunday.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Cardiff Fire 10-2 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 2-0/6-1/2-1

Shots: Cardiff Fire 77-19 Lee Valley Lions (28-4/25-6/24-9)

Penalty Minutes: Cardiff Fire 12-20 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Cardiff – Jackson Price 1+4, Samual Bryant 2+1, Jordan Powell 0+3, Lewis Stevens 2+0, Stephen Deacon 1+1, Tamas Elias 1+1, Ross Wilkinson 0+2, Joe Morris 1+0, Elliott Murdoch 1+0, Morgan Evans 1+0, Alan Armour 0+1, Cameron Basnett 0+1, Phil Manny 0+1, Viktor Langseth 0+1, Chris Fox 0+1

Lee Valley – Tom Hnilica 1+1, Michael Jacobs 1+1, Gus Zimmerman 0+2

Goaltenders: Cardiff – James Whiting (60:00 played, 19 shots/2 goals against)

Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 77 shots/10 goals against)

Man of the Match – James Andrew (Lee Valley)

The Lee Valley Lions are back in action this upcoming Sunday 4th November, as the Bracknell Hornets visit the Den. Faceoff will be at 17:30.