After their planned matches against Peterborough (awarded 0-0) and Swindon (awarded to the Lions 5-0) were both cancelled, the Lee Valley Lions played their last game of the season against the Invicta Mustangs on Sunday. The Kent side were 13th in the standings coming into this game, and the Lions hoped to end the season on a high with a win.
The Lions iced 12 skaters, with Matt Brown, Arran Hartley, Tom Hurley, Matt Jackson and Ashley Earll all absent. James Andrew started in net for the home side. The Mustangs brought 14 skaters, including former Lions defenceman Jarvis Mewett, while Matthew Passmore started in net with John Abbott backing up.
1st Period: Both sides started out nervously as the two bottom sides in the league tried to gain a foothold in the game. In the fifth minute, Lions captain Nick Alley had a good chance for the hosts but he wasn’t able to get the puck past Passmore in the Invicta net. The very next minute, Alley would be assessed two penalty minutes for tripping, and this enabled the Mustangs to open the scoring as Jake Stedman (6:10, assisted Thomas Dennis) buried a well-worked powerplay goal for 1-0. Stedman had already scored a hat-trick against the Lions back in November in an overtime win for Invicta, and came back to haunt the Lions again on this occasion.
The rest of the first period passed without too much incident; Matthew Hamilton of the Lions and Jarvis Mewett of the Mustangs each sat a minor penalty, but neither side was able to make the resulting powerplay opportunities count. In the 17th minute, Alley had another good chance but was again denied by Passmore, and there were to be no further goals in the first period as the Mustangs went into the break with a 1-0 lead. The Lions edged the shots 9-8 in the first frame.
2nd Period: The second period started off more openly than the first, with both teams creating chances and trying to score some much-needed goals. It was the Mustangs who struck first, Stedman (26:03, unassisted) scoring his second of the night and doubled his side’s advantage. The Lions did not let their heads drop after this, however, and scored a quickfire double to tie the scores up at 2-2. Firstly Samuel Awoyemi (29:37, assisted Nick Alley and Daniel Tamasauskas) put home a rebound after a Nick Alley shot, to reduce the deficit to 1-2 on the powerplay. It was Awoyemi’s second goal of the campaign. Just 59 seconds later, Simon Geldart (30:36, assisted Ross Sin-Hidge and Nick Alley) bagged his eighth goal of the season after nice link-up play with Ross Sin-Hidge and Alley to bring the scores level at two apiece.
Sadly for the Lions, they were not able to use this momentum and instead conceded just 54 seconds later, James Laming (31:30, assisted Dennis) restoring the visiting side’s lead as he put them 3-2 up. Both sides created a few more dangerous chances in the rest of the period, the Mustangs hitting the bar once and Alley forcing yet another strong save from Passmore as he charged in from the right wing, but there was to be no more scoring in the middle frame with the Mustangs taking a 3-2 lead into the third period.
3rd Period: The Lions came out for the final period desperate to get back in the game, but the Mustangs were the better team to start off with; James Andrew made an impressive save to deny Mustangs forward Anthony Baskerville on a breakaway, and the visitors had a few other good chances too with Andrew coming up with big saves repeatedly. Lions forward Ashley West was also handed a 10 minute misconduct for expressing his displeasure with a refereeing decision. The Mustangs’ pressure finally paid off at exactly 46 minutes as Bradley Gutridge (46:00, assisted Dennis and Jake Luton) fired past Andrew from a tight angle, deceiving the Lions netminder and doubling the visitors’ advantage to 4-2.
The Lions kept creating chances; Simon Geldart, Ross Sin-Hidge and Simon Jones all went close, but none of them could get the puck past Passmore. At the other end, the Mustangs also continued to pepper Andrew with shots, and he had another breakaway to deal with as he denied Aaron Ferris who had just come out of the penalty box. Try as they might, the Lions could not find a breakthrough, and the Mustangs then put the game to bed with two late goals. Firstly Gutridge (55:42, assisted Dennis and Michael Stokes) finished past Andrew on the breakaway as he raced away from a tiring Lions defence, before Luton (58:15, assisted Dennis and Stokes) scored a late powerplay marker with Nick Alley in the box to extend the Mustangs’ advantage to 6-2. Despite Simon Geldart’s best efforts – the Lions forward was denied by Passmore on a one-on-one – there were to be no more goals in the game, as it finished 6-2 to the Mustangs.
It was a night that summed up the Lions’ season really – a slow start, followed by some good spirit to get back in the game, but then not being able to see that result out over the full 60 minutes. The team will go away and regroup over the summer and hopefully come back bigger and better next season. Man of the Match for the final game of the campaign went to James Andrew after the Lions’ #1 made some fantastic saves – especially in the third period – while Jake Luton took home the award for the Mustangs after looking dangerous all night.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 2-6 Invicta Mustangs
Period Scores: 0-1/2-2/0-3
Shots: Lee Valley 33-47 Invicta (9-8/15-16/9-23)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 18-10 Invicta
Scorers: Lee Valley – Nick Alley 0+2, Samuel Awoyemi 1+0, Simon Geldart 1+0, Ross Sin-Hidge 0+1, Daniel Tamasauskas 0+1
Invicta – Thomas Dennis 0+5, Bradley Gutridge 2+0, Jake Stedman 2+0, Jake Luton 1+1, Michael Stokes 0+2, James Laming 1+0
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 47 shots/6 goals against)
Invicta – Matthew Passmore (60:00 played, 33 shots/2 goals against)
Man of the Match – James Andrew (Lee Valley), Jake Luton (Invicta)