Lions Conquered by Chieftains
The Lee Valley Lions began the month of March by welcoming the Chelmsford Chieftains to the Den, for the first of two back-to-back games between the sides over the weekend. The return match at the Riverside in Chelmsford would take place the very next day.
The Lions iced a somewhat weakened side of 12 skaters plus netminders James Andrew (who got the start) and Brett Shepherd. Missing for the Lions were Chris Fox, Ashley West, Ben Gillingham, Arran Hartley, Robyn Maby, Tom Hurley and Ashley Earll as well as long-term injured forward Ben Duffy.
The visitors from Essex also brought along 12 skaters, but it was a high quality roster; six of those 12 were part of the Chieftains sides that dominated NIHL South 1 in recent years, while import Michal Oravec scored at a rate of 1.18 points per game across five seasons in the league above. Young netminder Billy Cook started between the pipes for the Chieftains.
1st Period: The Lions came out confidently at the start of the game, trying to get in the faces of the opposition and not letting them dictate the pace. Lee Valley captain Nick Alley saw a shot ricochet off the pipes in the fifth minute before the Lions took the lead shortly afterwards, as a shot from a long way out by Matt Brown (5:16, assisted by Daniel Tamasauskas) squeezed through Cook and into the Chieftains’ net. It took the visitors just over two minutes to equalise however, forward Ross Brears (7:35, assisted Donald Campbell) levelling the scores at one apiece.
Chelmsford then took the lead just 40 seconds later, captain Anthony Leone (8:15, assisted Cameron Bartlett and Grant Bartlett) firing past Andrew in the Lions net after good interplay with the Chieftains’ dangerous Bartlett twins. When veteran Chelmsford defenceman Danny Wright sat a penalty for holding, the Lions tried all they could to get back into the game on the powerplay; but the Chieftains were able to kill off the penalty. The home side did create some good chances as the period wore on, with Matt Brown and Oliver Glover forcing Cook into some impressive saves. At the other end, James Andrew flashed the leather to deny Cameron Bartlett on the breakaway.
Sadly for the Lions, the visitors were able to extend their advantage with just over two minutes left until the first intermission as Grant Bartlett (17:37, assisted Donald Campbell) showed why he was chosen as NIHL South 2 Player of the Month for February as he unleashed a rocket of a slapshot past a helpless James Andrew. The Lions continued trying to fight back after this, with Alley forcing a save from Cook, but the Chieftains would make it 4-1 with a buzzer beater right at the end of the period as Thomas Wilson (20:00, assisted C. Bartlett and Michal Oravec) put the puck past Andrew. The first period finished 4-1 to the visitors, who outshot the Lions 24-10.
2nd Period: The home side once again came out strongly at the start of the second period, with Ross Sin-Hidge forcing a good save from Cook in the 22nd minute. At the other end, Lions netminder James Andrew was hurt whilst stopping a shot and stayed down for some time, but was able to continue. However the Chieftains would break the Lee Valley resistance with a pair of braces within the following six minutes. Firstly Michal Oravec (25:20, assisted Wilson) scored on the breakaway and Wilson (25:30, assisted C. Bartlett and Oravec) scrambled the puck home to put the visitors 5-1 and 6-1 up respectively just ten seconds apart. Not too long after that, Oravec (29:23, assisted G. Bartlett and Leone) scored on the PP with Simon Jones in the box for hooking to make it 7-1, and G. Bartlett (29:36, assisted Will Polston and Danny Wright) made it 8-1, just 13 seconds apart.
At this point, the Lions swapped goaltenders with Brett Shepherd relieving James Andrew in net. This seemed to galvanise the Lions for a while, as Sin-Hidge had a shorthanded chance in the 33rd minute before defenceman Matthew Hamilton shot wide of Cook’s net in the 36th minute. However when Lions forward Matt Brown went to the box for hooking, the Chieftains took advantage on the subsequent powerplay as G. Bartlett (38:39, assisted C. Bartlett and Wilson) put the visitors 9-1 up. There was still time for the Chieftains to hit double figures as C. Bartlett (39:23, assisted Elliott Dervish and TJ Fillery) made the score 10-1, and with just three seconds left in the second period the Essex side extended the lead to 11-1 as Brears (39:57, assisted Oravec) completed the scoring in the second period. The Chieftains outshot the Lions 28-8 in the middle frame.
3rd Period: The home side came out for the third period with purpose despite the large deficit, and got a consolation goal in the third minute of the period as Ross Sin-Hidge (42:55, assisted Nick Alley and Matthew Hamilton) finally got on the board with a powerplay marker after creating several chances throughout the game. The Lions had a further chance in the 47th minute but James Joseph shot wide of Cook’s net. At the other end of the ice, the Chieftains extended the lead to 12-2 as Wilson (47:43, assisted Oravec) broke the deadlock for the period in the 48th minute. Two more goals would follow in the next three minutes with G. Bartlett (49:52, assisted Dervish and C. Bartlett) grabbing his fourth of the night before Brears (50:58, assisted Dervish) unleashed a hard slapshot past Shepherd for 14-2. The last goal of the evening came from Wilson (55:17, unassisted) who bagged his fourth of the night and made the final score 15-2, the visitors outshooting the hosts 21-12 in the third period.
After a tough night for the Lions against a strong opponent, forward Matt Brown took home the Man of the Match award for a determined offensive performance including the first Lee Valley goal. Chelmsford’s import forward Oravec picked up the award for his side.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 2-15 Chelmsford Chieftains
Period Scores: 1-4/0-7/1-4
Shots: Lee Valley Lions 30-73 Chelmsford Chieftains (10-24/8-28/12-21)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 20-16 Chelmsford Chieftains
Scorers: Lee Valley – Matt Brown 1+0, Ross Sin-Hidge 1+0, Matthew Hamilton 0+1, Nick Alley 0+1, Daniel Tamasauskas 0+1
Chelmsford – Thomas Wilson 4+2, Grant Bartlett 4+2, Cameron Bartlett 1+5, Michal Oravec 2+4, Ross Brears 3+0, Elliott Dervish 0+3, Anthony Leone 1+1, Donald Campbell 0+2, TJ Fillery 0+1, Will Polston 0+1, Danny Wright 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (29:36 played, 38 shots/8 goals against), Brett Shepherd (30:24 played, 35 shots/7 goals against)
Chelmsford – Billy Cook (60:00 played, 30 shots/2 goals against)
Man of the Match – Matt Brown (Lee Valley), Michal Oravec (Chelmsford)
Lions Fall to Chieftains Despite Alley Hat-Trick
After losing 15-2 at home to the Chelmsford Chieftains the previous night, the Lee Valley Lions travelled to Essex for the return game 24 hours later hoping for a better performance and result.
The Lions welcomed back Ben Gillingham and backup netminder Robyn Maby, but were missing Brett Shepherd, Chris Fox, Ashley West, Ross-Sin-Hidge, Arran Hartley, Tom Hurley, Oliver Glover and Ashley Earll as well as long-term injured forward Ben Duffy – giving them just 11 skaters. James Andrew started in net for the second night in a row. Chelmsford iced an unchanged side of 12 skaters plus goaltender Billy Cook.
1st Period: The Lions were unable to repeat the strong start they showed the previous night, this time going down 1-0 in the third minute as Cameron Bartlett (2:27, assisted Robert Veares) put the home side ahead. The Chieftains would double their advantage four minutes later when Czech forward Michal Oravec (6:50, assisted Ross Brears and Danny Wright) put them 2-0 up.
However the visitors knuckled down after this and made it tough for the Chieftains, with the home side also taking a couple of penalties. While they killed off a roughing call against Ross Brears, the hosts were unable to do the same when Danny Wright went to the box for delay of game; Lions captain Nick Alley (16:09, assisted Ben Gillingham) halved the deficit on the powerplay with a well-worked goal. Alley had won the puck with a big hit on the Chieftains blueline, then played a give-and-go with Ben Gillingham before taking the return feed and burying past Billy Cook in the Chieftains net. There was still time for one more goal in the first period, and this came from the home side as C. Bartlett (17:34, assisted Thomas Wilson and Grant Bartlett) extended Chelmsford’s lead to 3-1. The hosts outshot the Lions 15-3 in the opening frame.
2nd Period: The second period did not start well for Lee Valley, as they conceded three goals in the first six minutes to go 6-1 down. Doing the damage for the Chieftains were blueliner Donald Campbell (22:10, assisted Wright), NIHL South 2 Player of the Month for February Grant Bartlett (25:15, assisted Oravec and C. Bartlett) and then his twin brother Cameron Bartlett (26:01, unassisted) who completed his hat-trick.
The last 14 minutes of the second period would be tighter, as the Lions cut down on mistakes and put pressure on the home side. Chelmsford had a few penalties to kill, but they managed to keep the Lions’ powerplay quiet and did not concede. Just one more goal would fall in the second frame as G. Bartlett (34:09, assisted Anthony Leone and C. Bartlett) scored his second of the night in the 35th minute to extend the Chelmsford lead to 7-1. The period ended with both sides level on shots, both James Andrew and Billy Cook having faced 16 each in their respective nets.
3rd Period: The third and final period had a wild start with two goals within the first two minutes. First of all the Chieftains made it 8-1 as G. Bartlett (41:05, assisted C. Bartlett and Leone) became the second Bartlett twin to compete his hat-trick on the night with a shorthanded goal, before the Lions would score a goal on the same powerplay through Matthew Hepburn (41:20, assisted Gillingham) with Ben Gillingham getting his second assist of the night.
The Lions would then show their spirit in scoring two more goals within the next four minutes to get the score back to 8-4 and give the Chieftains something to think about. First Alley (43:19, assisted Simon Geldart) bagged his second of the night before Hepburn (45:15, assisted Matt Brown and Gillingham) followed suit just two minutes later. And although the Chieftains extended the lead to 9-4 with C. Bartlett (49:38, assisted Campbell) scoring his fourth of the night, the Lions were again able to respond on the powerplay as Alley (52:34) got an unassisted marker to complete his hat-trick on the night and bring the score back to 9-5. Alley was moved to centre in this game from his usual position on the wings, and was able to make the most of his altered position to grab a hat-trick, his second of the season.
Two more Chieftains goals followed as the Lions tired late in the game, home captain Anthony Leone (53:12, assisted C. Bartlett and G. Bartlett) scoring their 10th and Wilson (54:43, assisted Oravec and C. Bartlett) completing the scoring with a powerplay goal which was their 11th of the evening. As the final buzzer sounded, the away side could be proud of their efforts as they put in a much better performance than the previous night, and were rewarded for their efforts with five goals on the night. Lions hat-trick hero Alley took home the Man of the Match award, while Grant Bartlett took home the award for his side.
Final Score: Chelmsford Chieftains 11-5 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 3-1/4-0/4-4
Shots: Chelmsford Chieftains 43-31 Lee Valley Lions (13-5/16-16/14-10)
Penalty Minutes: Chelmsford Chieftains 40-8 Lee Valley Lions
Scorers: Chelmsford – Cameron Bartlett 4+5, Grant Bartlett 3+2, Michal Oravec 1+2, Anthony Leone 1+2, Thomas Wilson 1+1, Donald Campbell 1+1, Danny Wright 0+2, Ross Brears 0+1, Robert Veares 0+1
Lee Valley – Nick Alley 3+0, Ben Gillingham 0+3, Matthew Hepburn 2+0, Matt Brown 0+1, Simon Geldart 0+1
Goaltenders: Chelmsford – Billy Cook (60:00 played, 31 shots/5 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 43 shots/11 goals against)
Man of the Match – Nick Alley (Lee Valley), Grant Bartlett (Chelmsford)
The Lions’ next match is a trip to face Swindon Wildcats on Saturday March 17th.