Two weeks after their third overtime loss of the season against Slough, the Lions travelled to Oxford to take on the Bristol Pitbulls, hoping to go one better and finally win a game this campaign. The Pitbulls had won the reverse fixture 11-1 earlier in the season, however, so this looked to be another tough task for the East London side.
The Lions handed a debut to defenceman Matt Jackson, the third player to join the Lions from the MK Cyclones rec team this season after Tom Hurley and Ashley West. Missing from the Lions lineup were Ben Duffy, Robyn Maby, Ben Gillingham, Ross Sin-Hidge, Jordan Turner and Michael Crosse, giving them 16 skaters. Young netminder Brett Shepherd once again got the start with James Andrew backing up. The Pitbulls also iced 16 skaters, while Ross Miller started in net ahead of Andrew Leckie.
1st Period: The Lions started the first period with good intensity, getting in the Pitbulls’ faces and not allowing them time to settle on the puck. The away side were rewarded with the first goal as captain Nick Alley (6:08, assisted Chris Fox and Ashley Earll) followed up on a rebound from an Ashley Earll shot and put the puck past Miller for a 1-0 Lions lead. It was Alley’s 13th goal of the season, while the assist on the goal was also the first Lions point for former Invicta Mustangs defenceman Earll. It didn’t take long for the Pitbulls to equalise however, Bristol also getting a goal from their captain as Olly Shone (7:39, assisted Tom Egerton) buried past Shepherd in the Lions net to level the scores. It was Shone’s 150th career goal in Pitbulls colours.
As the period wore on, the Pitbulls put more and more shots on Shepherd – but the young netminder stood firm and did not concede any more goals in the opening stanza. At the other end, the Lions would take the lead with just under two minutes to play until the intermission, Matt Brown (18:03, assisted Simon Jones) putting a speculative shot on the Pitbulls net that found its way past Miller. It was the former Haringey Racers forward’s sixth goal of the season. This put Lee Valley 2-1 up, a lead they would hold until the first period break despite Shepherd facing 23 shots to Miller’s 13 in the period.
2nd Period: While the first period was an impressive one for the Lions, they came totally unstuck in the second. A tripping penalty against Daniel Tamasauskas just six seconds into the period put the Pitbulls on the powerplay, and they duly converted through Adrian Smith (21:44, assisted Grant Richardson and Jordan Jefferies) to level the scores at two. And, when Nick Alley sat for slashing just a few minutes later, the Pitbulls again converted on the man advantage as they took the lead through Logan Prince (23:57, assisted Olly Shone and Josh Galea).
And things would go from bad to worse for the Lions between the 31st and 38th minutes, as they conceded three further goals. Olly Shone (30:49, assisted Jamie Newton) made it 4-2 in the 31st minute before Josh Dolphin (35:16, assisted Prince and Jefferies) increased the lead to 5-2, five minutes later. And skipper Olly Shone (37:37, assisted Ryan McFarlane and Macaulay Coppock) completed his hat-trick with just over two minutes left in the period to make it 6-2 to the Pitbulls.
Late in the period, Nick Alley was shunted into Pitbulls goaltender Miller by a Bristol defenceman. This led to a fight between Lions forward Chris Fox and Pitbulls blueliner Sam Shone, who both received 2+2+2 for their troubles. Miller was injured on the play and was replaced by Andrew Leckie in the net for the remainder of the game. There would be no more drama in the remaining 1:40 of the second frame, with the Pitbulls taking a 6-2 lead into the final period having outshot the Lions 18-11.
3rd Period: The third period saw the Lions try everything they could to claw back the deficit, but the visitors were unable to find their way past replacement netminder Leckie’s defences. And the Lions weren’t helped by taking two more penalties just as they looked to build momentum; a bench penalty for an icing infringement was followed by two minutes for tripping against Ollie Glover. While the Lions were able to kill these two penalties, valuable minutes were lost from the game. Meanwhile the disciplined Pitbulls gave up just one powerplay in the whole game as Jordan Jefferies sat two for tripping at 55:01, but Bristol killed that penalty and also saw out the game as the final buzzer sounded with the score at 6-2. The Pitbulls edged the shot count 13-12 in the tight, goalless final period.
It was a tale of what might have been for the Lions. They were leading coming into the second period, but two early penalties saw them go behind in the game, and they never quite recovered from that. Bristol for their part were disciplined and made the most of their chances, skating off with a comfortable win despite only being on top for one of the three periods. Man of the Match for the Lions was defenceman Simon Jones, while captain and hat-trick hero Olly Shone took home the award for the Pitbulls.
Final Score: Bristol Pitbulls 6-2 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 1-2/5-0/0-0
Shots: Bristol Pitbulls 54-36 Lee Valley Lions (23-13/18-11/13-12)
Penalty Minutes: Bristol Pitbulls 8-14 Lee Valley Lions
Scorers – Bristol: Olly Shone (3+1), Logan Prince (1+1), Jordan Jefferies (0+2), Adrian Smith (1+0), Josh Dolphin (1+0), Jamie Newton (0+1), Josh Galea (0+1), Macaulay Coppock (0+1), Tom Egerton (0+1), Grant Richardson (0+1), Ryan McFarlane (0+1)
Scorers – Lee Valley: Nick Alley (1+0), Matt Brown (1+0), Ashley Earll (0+1), Chris Fox (0+1), Simon Jones (0+1)
Goaltenders – Bristol: Ross Miller (38:20 played, 23 shots/2 goals against), Andrew Leckie (21:40 played, 13 shots/0 goals against)
Goaltenders – Lee Valley: Brett Shepherd (60:00 played, 54 shots/6 goals against)
Man of the Match: Simon Jones (Lee Valley), Olly Shone (Bristol)
The Lee Valley Lions are next in action at home to the Oxford City Stars on Saturday the 17th February. Faceoff is at 5:30pm.