After their planned game at Chelmsford last weekend was cancelled due to inclement weather, the Lee Valley Lions ended 2017 with a trip to league leaders the Oxford City Stars on Sunday. Oxford have lost just one game this season, while the Lions are yet to record their first win – their two points so far coming from overtime defeats.
The Lions were without a host of players: Ashley Earll, Ben Duffy, Brett Shepherd, Chris Fox, Jordan Turner, Lee Hounslow, Michael Crosse, Robin Young, Ross Sin-Hidge and Tom Hurley all missed the game, giving the Lions 12 skaters plus netminders James Andrew and Robyn Maby. Home side Oxford fielded 16 skaters and netminding duo Mark Duffy and Milan Ronai.
1st Period: The Lions have been slow starters this season, but this game didn’t go the same way. In fact, the East London side took the lead in the sixth minute as Simon Geldart (5:49, assisted Matt Brown) put the puck past City Stars netminder Duffy. Oxford didn’t take long to reply, however; it took just 56 seconds before Kamil Kinkor (6:45, unassisted) levelled the game up, shooting past Andrew in the Lions net. The Stars then put more and more pressure on Andrew as the period wore on, and took the lead just before the ten minute mark as Andrew Cox (9:53, assisted Kinkor) put the home side 2-1 up.
Two more goals followed in the first period – both for the home side – as first Dominic Hopkins (12:51, assisted Michael Whillock and Cox) and then Josh Oliver (14:41, assisted Hopkins) increased Oxford’s lead to 4-1. The latter goal came on the powerplay with Lions forward Matthew Hepburn serving two minutes for tripping – unusually, this would be the only penalty of the game. Period 1 ended with Oxford 4-1 up, but it could have been more if not for Andrew’s heroics – the Lions netminder stopped 18 of 22 shots in the period. His opposite number Duffy faced four, stopping one.
2nd Period: Any hopes the Lions had of keeping the scoreline close were dashed in the second period as the league leaders stepped it up a level and scored ten goals without reply. The first came just 15 seconds in, Kinkor (20:15, assisted Martyn Gray and Josh Florey) grabbing his second of the night. Before the 24 minute mark, two more goals were to follow as first Stewart Tait (21:58, assisted Conor Redmond) and then Josh Florey (23:52, assisted Kinkor and Joe Edwards) extended Oxford’s lead to 7-1.
The Lions then managed to keep the Stars out for seven minutes, before a whirlwind of goals followed: Oxford went from 7-1 to 14-1 up between the 31st and 38th minutes. There were two goals for Josh Florey, who completed his hat-trick, and one for Kinkor who also completed his; as well as two for Dax Hedges and one each for Josh Oliver and Conor Redmond. The period ended 14-1 in Oxford’s favour, with James Andrew facing 20 shots on the period and Duffy having to make just two saves.
3rd Period: The Lions swapped netminders in the third period, with Robyn Maby getting a chance between the pipes in relief of Andrew. And although Oxford went 15-1 up after just 49 seconds – Kinkor (40:49, unassisted) grabbing his fourth of the night – Maby had a strong period in net and made some big saves to prevent the scoreline being even higher. Nonetheless, 16-1 came in the 45th minute with Joe Edwards (44:11, assisted Kinkor and Josh Florey) scoring his first of the night.
Two more goals followed in the period, both for the home side. Josh Oliver (49:14, assisted Tait and Redmond) became the third Oxford player to complete a hat-trick as he made it 17-1, while youngster Will Harrison (57:53, assisted Tait and Redmond) put the icing on the cake. The final score was 18-1, with Oxford peppering Maby with 21 shots in the period and Duffy in the Oxford net
Robyn Maby took the Player of the Game award for the Lions after making 16 saves in the final period on 21 shots, while Josh Florey took the award for the home side.
It was the expected heavy defeat for the Lions in perhaps their toughest game of the season. They were nonetheless praised for their relentless determination and team spirit by neutral observers, and will hope there are better things to come in 2018.
Final Score: Oxford City Stars 18-1 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 4-1/10-0/4-0
Shots: Oxford 63-10 Lee Valley (22-4/20-2/21-4)
Penalty Minutes: Oxford 0-2 Lee Valley
Scorers: Oxford – Kamil Kinkor (4+5), Josh Florey (3+3), Stewart Tait (1+3), Conor Redmond (1+3), Josh Oliver (3+0), Dominic Hopkins (1+2), Joe Edwards (1+2), Dax Hedges (2+0), Andrew Cox (1+1), Michael Whillock (0+2), Will Harrison (1+0), Jake Florey (0+1), Jason William Ikin (0+1), Matthew Lawday (0+1), Alexander Staples (0+1), Martyn Gray (0+1)
Lee Valley – Simon Geldart (1+0), Matt Brown (0+1)
Goaltenders: Oxford – Mark Duffy (60:00 played, 10 shots/1 goal against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (40:00 played, 42 shots/14 goals against), Robyn Maby (20:00 played, 21 shots/4 goals against)
Player of the Match – Robyn Maby (Lee Valley), Josh Florey (Oxford)