Lions Shut Out by Leaders Oxford
In their only home game in the month of February, the Lee Valley Lions welcomed the league leading Oxford City Stars to town on Saturday. The Stars won the previous meeting between the sides 18-1 back in December and had only lost two games all season coming into this one.
The Lions iced a strong lineup of 17 skaters as well as goaltenders Brett Shepherd – who once again got the start in net – and James Andrew. Missing from the Lions lineup were Ben Duffy, Chris Fox, Robyn Maby, Jordan Turner and Michael Crosse. The Stars also brought 17 skaters to east London, with Milan Ronai starting in net and Mark Duffy backing up.
1st Period: It was a good start to the game for the Lions, who defended solidly in the opening stages as they didn’t allow themselves to be overawed by a side 13 places ahead of them in the table. Oxford found it tough to break down the Lions defence and, when they did, young netminder Shepherd was equal to the task. The Lions were also able to kill an early tripping penalty against Ben Gillingham. Only in the eighth minute were the Stars able to break the deadlock, Josh Oliver (7:18, assisted Conor Redmond and Stewart Tait) finishing past Shepherd at the back door after nice passes from defenceman Stewart Tait and forward Conor Redmond. And the visitors doubled their advantage just over a minute later, Czech import Kamil Kinkor (8:23, assisted Redmond) burying the puck past Shepherd for 2-0.
Just after the midway point in the opening period, the Stars stretched their advantage to three, Matthew Lawday (10:10, assisted Michael Whillock) finishing past Shepherd from a tight angle. The Stars were then able to kill an interference call against Jake Florey, as the Lions never quite got going on the powerplay. Two penalties against the Lions then put Oxford on a 5-on-3 powerplay for 49 seconds, with first Ashley West sitting two minutes for holding and then James Joseph being called for high sticking. The Lions managed to kill both penalties but, just six seconds after the Lions were back to full strength, Kinkor (19:14, assisted Dominic Hopkins and Jake Florey) took advantage of a gap in the Lee Valley defence to finish past Shepherd on the breakaway for 4-0, which was also the score at the end of the first period.
2nd Period: The Lions came out for the second period determined not to let in any more goals, and they were again strong in the opening stages as they prevented Oxford from adding to their four goal advantage. The Lions successfully killed a boarding minor against Ashley West in the early stages of the period too. And indeed the Lions created a dangerous scoring chance in the 25th minute as Matt Brown tested Ronai in the Stars net after a good feed from captain Nick Alley. This time it took Oxford until the ninth minute of the period to finally grab a goal, and it was Kinkor (28:53, assisted Jason Ikin and Andrew Cox) who completed his hat trick and put the visitors 5-0 up.
After a cross checking penalty against Jake Florey, the Lions would have hoped to get a goal back on the powerplay; but instead, after a mix-up in the Lions defence, the Stars scored a shorthanded goal to go 6-0 up as captain Darren Elliott stole the puck and fed Michael Whillock (34:46, assisted Elliott) who finished calmly past Shepherd. With just over three minutes to go in the period, tempers would flare as Oxford’s Josh Oliver and Lions defenceman Matt Jackson clashed, both receiving two minutes for roughing while the Lee Valley man also received a 10 minute misconduct. The Lions then had another powerplay chance late in the period as Andrew Cox sat two minutes for tripping, but the home side could not convert and went into the second period break 6-0 down.
3rd Period: Once again the Lions would start the period well, not letting the Stars take control of the game and having a few chances of their own. Lions forward Ben Gillingham was particularly impressive as he tested Stars netminder Mark Duffy – who replaced Ronai for the third period – a couple of times. But after a cross-checking call against Lee Valley’s Matt Brown, the Stars finally notched up their first powerplay goal of the evening to go 7-0 up in the 48th minute as Hopkins (47:37, assisted Redmond) finished nicely past Shepherd. And it was defenceman Andrew Cox (56:00, assisted Will Harrison and Joe Edwards) who completed the scoring at 56 minutes exactly, scoring Oxford’s eighth and last goal of the evening to make the score 8-0.
The Lions still refused to give up though, and had perhaps their best chance of the game in the 58th minute as Ross Sin-Hidge fed Nick Alley, but the Lions skipper was unable to get the puck past Duffy in the Stars net. As the buzzer sounded to end the game, the Lions could be proud of their efforts in going down 8-0. Despite being defeated and shut out, the Lions competed with and frustrated the league leaders for large portions of the game and made the Stars work for the win. Man of the match for the Lions was Ben Gillingham, who epitomised the home side’s work ethic with an industrious performance, while hat-trick hero Kinkor took home the award for the Stars.
*Please note, some stats vary from those on the official game sheet
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 0-8 Oxford City Stars
Period Scores: 0-4/0-2/0-2
Shots: Lee Valley Lions 29-69 Oxford City Stars (5-29/12-20/12-20)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 24-10 Oxford City Stars
Scorers: Oxford – Kamil Kinkor 3+0, Conor Redmond 0+3, Andrew Cox 1+1. Michael Whillock 1+1, Dominic Hopkins 1+1, Josh Oliver 1+0, Matthew Lawday 1+0, Jake Florey 0+1, Jason Ikin 0+1, Stewart Tait 0+1, Will Harrison 0+1, Joe Edwards 0+1, Darren Elliott 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – Brett Shepherd (60:00 played, 69 shots/8 goals against)
Oxford – Milan Ronai (40:00 played, 17 shots/0 goals against), Mark Duffy (20:00 played, 12 shots/0 goals against)
Man of the Match – Ben Gillingham (Lee Valley), Kamil Kinkor (Oxford)
Lions Bested in Basingstoke
After going down 8-0 at home to league leaders Oxford the previous evening, the Lee Valley Lions travelled to Hampshire to take on a Basingstoke Buffalo side that hadn’t won a game since mid-November. Once again the Lions hoped this would be the occasion for them to finally take their first win of the campaign.
For the first time this season, the Lions could field a full line-up of 20 skaters as Chris Fox returned to the lineup. James Andrew started in goal with Brett Shepherd backing up. The home side iced 15 skaters including former Lions player-coach Blair Dubyk, with Aaron Craft starting in net and Kevin McGurk backing up.
1st Period: The home side got the better of the early stages, with the Lions on the back foot and netminder Andrew called into action several times to thwart Basingstoke forwards. However the Lions weathered that early storm and started to get back into the game as the period wore on. When Buffalo forward Mark Austen was penalised for boarding in the 15th minute, the Lions would have hoped to take the lead on the powerplay. But instead the Lions took two penalties themselves – Simon Jones sitting for interference and James Joseph for holding – which put the hosts on a 4-on-3 powerplay. And Basingstoke duly converted this as defenceman Sam Dollin (15:48, assisted Samuel Compton and Cameron Buckle) fired past Andrew for 1-0.
Things would get worse for the visitors just 23 seconds later, as Basingstoke doubled their lead to 2-0 through a goal from Warren Jones (16:11, assisted Neil Leary and Blair Dubyk). Following this quick double for the Buffalo, however, the Lions came back into the game strongly, peppering netminder Aaron Craft with shots and finally getting their reward with just 14 seconds left in the period as Ben Gillingham (19:46, assisted Matt Brown) drove the net and tipped in a feed from Matt Brown to get the score back to 2-1. It was the first goal of the season for hard-working forward Gillingham. The first period ended with the Lions 2-1 down and having been outshot 20-11.
2nd Period: The Lions again came out slowly for the second period, with Andrew having to come up big on several occasions as he faced a lot of rubber. Once again, as the period wore on, the Lions were able to get into the game more, but couldn’t make the most of their possession in the Buffalo zone as the well-drilled hosts prevented them from getting any clear-cut chances. A powerplay opportunity with Basingstoke’s Matthew Levy in the box for roughing also went by without any success.
Also similar to the first period was the fact that the Lions then conceded two goals in quite quick succession to allow Basingstoke to go 4-1 up. First Dubyk (30:58, unassisted) went it alone and finished past Andrew, before under three minutes later Gregory Martyn (33:18, assisted Samuel Brooks and Dubyk) netted on the powerplay with James Joseph sitting two minutes for delay of game. The Lions continued to show good fighting spirit though, getting back into the game when Nick Alley (37:30, assisted Ross Sin-Hidge and Matt Brown) scored his 14th goal of the season as he raced up the ice on a 2-on-1 with Ross Sin-Hidge and elected to shoot past Craft. A nice stretch pass from James Joseph had started the move. The second period ended with the Lions 4-2 down and having been outshot 21-13.
3rd Period: The Lions were much better in the final period, dominating the majority of possession and trying everything they could to get back into the game. They put 19 shots on Buffalo netminder Craft in the period, but the Basingstoke shot stopper was equal to everything the Lee Valley forwards threw at him. The Lions were also wasteful in possession at times, not taking full advantage of the puck possession they had in Basingstoke’s zone. Despite all the pressure, they simply could not find a way past Craft and, with just 16 seconds left in the game and Andrew pulled for an extra attacker, a wayward Lions pass was intercepted by Mark Austen (59:44, unassisted) who finished into the empty net for the final score of 5-2 to the home side.
A frustrating loss for the Lions, who came back strongly in the first two periods before dominating the third but couldn’t create enough clear cut chances and couldn’t take the win. The hosts for their part were well-organised and took their chances well. The Man of the Match award for the Lions went to Matt Brown for his two assists, while Mark Austen took home the award for the Buffalo.
*Please note, some stats vary from those on the official game sheet
Final Score: Basingstoke Buffalo 5-2 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 2-1/2-1/1-0
Shots: Basingstoke Buffalo 53-43 Lee Valley Lions (20-11/21-13/12-19)
Penalty Minutes: Basingstoke Buffalo 8-6 Lee Valley Lions
Scorers: Basingstoke – Blair Dubyk 1+2, Warren Jones 1+0, Gregory Martyn 1+0, Sam Dollin 1+0, Mark Austen 1+0, Neil Leary 0+1, Samuel Compton 0+1, Samuel Brooks 0+1, Cameron Buckle 0+1
Lee Valley – Matt Brown 0+2, Nick Alley 1+0, Ben Gillingham 1+0, Ross Sin-Hidge 0+1
Goaltenders: Basingstoke – Aaron Craft (60:00 played, 43 shots/2 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (59:06 played, 52 shots/4 goals against)
Man of the Match – Matt Brown (Lee Valley), Mark Austen (Basingstoke)