The wet weather outside signalled that summer was over, and that ice hockey was well and truly back.
Lee Valley Lions begun their season, with a visit from Division 2 South West side Swindon in the NIHL 2 Cup. The Lions featured many of last season’s side, but also a debut for new goalie James Andrew and returns for James Hepburn & Jordan Turner after a year out. Swindon arrived in East London short benched, but boasting the experienced Graeme Bird and Loris Taylor amongst their ranks. Also making his 200th appearance for the Lions was long serving defenceman James Joseph.
1st Period: The Lions started the game quickly, but Simon Geldart was penalised for holding. Lee Valley killed the penalty, and followed up by getting a couple of shots in on Graeme Bird in the Swindon net, but the shots were infrequent and Lee Valley were unable to follow up on the rebounds.
Meanwhile Swindon slowed the pace of the game well and controlled the puck when they did get into the Lions’ zone. Eventually Swindon capitalised on a poor face off from the Lions and Adam Coakley knocked in fom brother Andrew Coakley’s rebound (06:26, assist Andrew Coakley).
Little under three minutes later, another poor face off in their own zone saw Stuart Widdows unmarked (09:03, assist Taylor).
Lee Valley upped the work rate again and after being frustrated by Bird, Nick Alley (17:45, unassisted) finally broke through the reduce the score the 2-1, which is how the period ended.
2nd Period: Lee Valley needed a strong response and started the period at a faster pace, with both teams raising the physicality. Sam Awoyemi and James Hepburn both made big hits in defensive positions, and the Lions started to reduce the shots on Andrew’s goal. Lee Valley still couldn’t make any clear cut chances though and with that the period ended scoreless, with the score still at 2-1 to Swindon.
3rd Period: The third period continued with the pace of the 2nd, but Lee Valley started to give away more turnovers in neutral ice and Swindon started to gain more control and settle in the Lions’ own zone. James Andrew continued to make big saves until a turnover on Lee Valley’s blue line allowed Jordan Smith (48:50, unassisted) to skate in 1-on-0 against Andrew, roofing the puck to double Swindon’s lead.
Lions continued to struggle to get out of their own zone and as they tried to get back into the game, Nick Alley mis-timed a hit at neutral ice, receiving a tripping penalty. Swindon were quick to capitalise through Jordan Smith (58:34, assist Taylor), making it 4-1 before Matt Hepburn (58:34, assist Ben Gillingham) quickly fired back to pull it back to 4-2.
George Alley decided to gamble in an effort to salvage a draw and pulled James Andrew for the extra skater, but the Lions couldn’t maintain control of the puck and a scrappy turnover allowed Adam Coakley (59:46 empty net goal, unassisted) to chip into the empty net, sealing the game at 5-2.
Final Score: Lee Valley 2-5 Swindon
Period Scores: 1-2/0-0/1-3
Shots on Goal: Lee Valley 21-47 Swindon
Penalties in Minutes: Lee Valley 6-8 Swindon
Scoring: Lee Valley: Nick Alley & Matt Hepburn (1+0), Ben Gillingham (0+1)
Swindon: Adam Coakley & Jordan Smith (2+0), Loris Taylor (0+2), Stuart Widdows (1+0), Andrew Coakley (0+1)
Goaltending Stats: James Andrew (Lions) 46 shots/4 goals 91.3%, Empty Net 1 shot/1 goal
Graeme Bird (Swindon) 21 shots/2 goals 90.48%
Lee Valley Lions return to league action next Saturday (10/09) at home to Slough Jets, for information about tickets and travel to to Lee Valley Ice Centre, go to the Game Day section of our website.