Lions Fall to Buffalo After Poor First Period

The Lee Valley Lions looked to make up for a frustrating 8-4 loss on the road in Swindon the previous weekend as they welcomed the Basingstoke Buffalo to the Den. The Buffalo were sitting 11th in the standings coming into this game, having won just one game since November – and that was a 5-2 win over the Lions last month.

The Lions iced 13 skaters, with U18 forward Joe Miller making his home debut having made his first senior appearance in Swindon the weekend before. Brett Shepherd started in goal with Robyn Maby backing up. Lions captain Nick Alley was unable to play due to a knee injury, with James Andrew, Ben Duffy, Matthew Hepburn, Chris Fox, Arran Hartley, Tom Hurley and Ashley Earll also absent.

The Buffalo, wearing special jerseys in order to raise awareness for prostate cancer, brought 17 skaters including former Lee Valley favourite Blair Dubyk. Aaron Craft started in goal, with Kevin McGurk backing up.

1st Period: The home side started the first period well, with Simon Geldart going close early on. And they took the lead just over three minutes in as Matt Brown (3:05, assisted Ross Sin-Hidge) slotted the puck home for his ninth goal of the season after Craft in the Buffalo net could only parry a Ross Sin-Hidge effort. Lions defenceman Matt Jackson had started the move with a nice pass in his own zone. But this lead only lasted 38 seconds, Warren Jones (3:43, unassisted) capitalising on a Lee Valley giveaway to slot the equalising goal past Shepherd for 1-1.

And it would only take 33 seconds for the visitors to turn the game around and take the lead, with Basingstoke forward Cameron Buckle feeding the puck to fellow 18-year-old Samuel Brooks (4:16, assisted Josh Richards and Cameron Buckle) who finished past Shepherd on the breakaway to put Basingstoke 2-1 up and turn the tide in the game.

After this double blow, the Lions tried to regroup and get back into the game. But try as they might, they were unable to create too many concrete chances and, when they did, Craft was equal to them. The Lions were also unable to use a powerplay opportunity when Marcus Russell sat two minutes for tripping. And the Buffalo also had two more goals up their sleeve towards the end of the period to put themselves further ahead in the game. Firstly Warren Jones (15:17, unassisted) took advantage of another Lions giveaway, taking a shot that was deflected past Shepherd for his second goal of the game. And just two minutes later, Buckle (17:05, assisted Brooks and Gregory Martyn) slotted home coolly after a smart feed from Brooks as the Lions once again failed to deal with the speed and trickery of the young forward duo.

The period finished with the Buffalo 4-1 up and leading the shots 13-10, while the Lions defence looked all at sea.

2nd Period: The Buffalo swapped goaltenders at the beginning of the second period, with veteran Kevin McGurk replacing Craft between the pipes. The period started off quietly, with the Lions trying to find their way into the game and the Buffalo trying not to make any mistakes that would put their three goal lead in jeopardy. The Lions had another powerplay at the 27 minute mark as Matthew Levy sat two minutes for interference after a hard hit on Oliver Glover but, despite the efforts of Lee Valley forward Matt Brown, the powerplay was not able to fire and the home side remained three goals behind.

Just as the Lions were starting to get into the game and gather some momentum, the Buffalo struck with the first goal of the period to go 5-1 up, as 16-year-old forward Oscar Evans (31:06, assisted Buckle and Daniel Lackey) roofed the puck over Shepherd from a tight angle. A few minutes later, the Lions had another powerplay, with Brown again looking dangerous but still unable to find a goal. However with just 29 seconds left in the period, Brown (39:31, assisted Sin-Hidge) was finally able to get his second goal of the evening with a sweet finish on the breakaway after Sin-Hidge had set him on his way with a nice pass. It was Brown’s 10th goal of the campaign as he reached double figure goals in his first season for Lee Valley. This cut the deficit to 2-5, and it would stay this way until the end of the period – a period in which the Lions outshot their visitors 17-15.

3rd Period: That late goal at the end of the second period seemed to give the Lions renewed hope for the final frame, with the hosts coming out more aggressively in the third and looking to grab some further goals. And three minutes into the period they were able to do just that, as Sin-Hidge (43:41, assisted Joe Miller) cut the Buffalo lead to 3-5 with his seventh goal of the season. All the hard work in the build-up to the goal was done by 16-year-old Miller, as he battled hard for the puck in the corner and then fed a lovely pass to Sin-Hidge who buried it effectively past McGurk. The Lions kept up the pressure after this goal, however it would be the Buffalo who struck next to extend their lead to 6-3, Evans (47:43, assisted Brooks and Martyn) getting his second of the night after more impressive build-up play from Brooks.

The Lions still did not let their heads drop and threw everything they had at the Buffalo as they tried to get back into the game. And, when they got another powerplay opportunity as Josh Richards sat for tripping, they were finally able to score a goal with the man advantage as Ben Gillingham (51:12, assisted Oliver Glover and Daniel Tamasauskas) scored his third goal of the season after nice interplay with Glover and Tamasauskas. Sadly for the Lions, this lead would not last too long, as Gregory Martyn (53:36, assisted Brooks and Sam Dollin) finished off a nice Buffalo move to increase their lead to 7-4. The last few minutes of the game saw the Lions try everything they could to draw level in the game, but they were unable to score any further goals and the final buzzer sounded with the Buffalo running out 7-4 winners.

It was another frustrating evening for the Lions, who tied the second period 1-1 and the third period 2-2, but lost the game due to the poor first period in which they shipped four goals due to some inattentive play. One bright spot for the Lions in this game was the impressive performance of Joe Miller, who was rewarded with the Man of the Match award in only his second senior game. Samuel Brooks took home the award for the Buffalo.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 4-7 Basingstoke Buffalo

Period Scores: 1-4/1-1/2-2

Shots: Lee Valley 39-42 Basingstoke (10-13/17-15/12-14)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 2-12 Basingstoke

Scorers: Lee Valley – Ross Sin-Hidge 1+2, Matt Brown 2+0, Ben Gillingham 1+0, Joe Miller 0+1, Daniel Tamasauskas 0+1, Oliver Glover 0+1

Basingstoke – Samuel Brooks 1+3, Cameron Buckle 1+2, Gregory Martyn 1+2, Warren Jones 2+0, Oscar Evans 2+0, Daniel Lackey 0+1, Josh Richards 0+1, Sam Dollin 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – Brett Shepherd (60:00 played, 42 shots/7 goals against)

Basingstoke Aaron Craft (20:00 played, 10 shots/1 goal against), Kevin McGurk (40:00 played, 29 shots/3 goals against)

Man of the Match – Joe Miller (Lee Valley), Samuel Brooks (Basingstoke)

With the previously postponed game against Peterborough having now been awarded 0-0, all of the Lions’ focus will now turn to the season-ending home double header on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th of April, with Swindon and Invicta visiting the Den on back-to-back days. Face-off for both games will be 5:30pm.

Seven Mad Minutes Cost Lions in Swindon

After a weekend off, the Lee Valley Lions returned to action on Saturday as they travelled to Swindon to take on the NIHL2 Wildcats. It was to be a battle between the bottom two sides in the league, with Swindon sitting 13th and the Lions 14th coming into the game.

The Lions welcomed back Ashley West, Ross Sin-Hidge, Oliver Glover and Brett Shepherd, all of whom missed the previous game in Chelmsford. There was also a senior debut for Lee Valley U18 captain Joe Miller. Missing from the line-up were Ben Duffy, Chris Fox, Arran Hartley, Robyn Maby, Tom Hurley and Ashley Earll. This gave the Lions 15 skaters plus netminders Shepherd – who started in net – and James Andrew. Swindon iced a full roster of 20 skaters plus netminders Michael Crisp and Liam McGuire.

1st Period: The first period started off fairly evenly, with both sides creating a couple of early chances. It was the visiting Lions who took the lead in the seventh minute, Matt Brown (6:53, assisted Ben Gillingham) opening the scoring as he shot past Crisp in the Wildcats net. It took the home side less than a minute to respond however, Eliot Randall (7:48, assisted Callum Stockley-Phillips) equalising as he fired past Shepherd.

As the opening frame wore on, Swindon created more and more chances – they ended up outshooting the Lions 17-7 in the period – and they made one of those extra chances count in the 13th minute as Polish forward Adrian Dusznik (12:50, unassisted) gave the hosts the lead for the first time in the game. The first period would end with no further scoring, although Lions forward Simon Geldart was penalised for roughing with 16 seconds left in the period – meaning the visitors would start period two on the penalty kill.

2nd Period: The second period started off with a bang for the Lions – Matthew Hepburn (20:43, unassisted) chased the puck down brilliantly on the penalty kill before scoring a short-handed goal past Crisp to tie the scores at two apiece. And things got better for the Lions five minutes later as Geldart (25:47, unassisted) atoned for his earlier penalty with the go-ahead goal putting the visitors 3-2 up. At this point, the away side were playing well and looking like they could maybe take that long-awaited first win of the season.

Unfortunately the Lions would then suffer a mad seven minutes and five seconds in which they conceded five goals and allowed the momentum to totally swing back in Swindon’s favour. Captain Loris Taylor (26:57, assisted Christopher Leykam) started the ball rolling with the equalising goal for 3-3, before two goals within 14 seconds of each other saw the Wildcats go 5-3 up. First Harvey Robson (30:10, assisted Leykam and Adam Coakley) scored on the powerplay with Oliver Glover in the box for hooking, and then Jake Williams (30:24, assisted Ethan Easton and Corey Herbert) followed it up with Swindon’s fifth goal of the night.

The Wildcats weren’t done there, and just 52 seconds later they went 6-3 up as Reed Sayers (31:16, unassisted) bagged an unassisted goal. At this point, the Lions swapped goaltenders with James Andrew coming into net in relief of Shepherd. However this move could not prevent Swindon adding their seventh goal of the night just a few minutes later, Dusznik (34:02, assisted Sayers) scoring his second of the game and putting the hosts 7-3 ahead. There was no more scoring in the period, with the Wildcats winning the middle frame 5-2 having outshot the Lions 22-12.

3rd Period: For the third period, the Wildcats swapped goalies too with Liam McGuire coming into net in place of Michael Crisp. It was a fairly quiet start to the period, with Swindon using their much longer bench to run down the clock and conserve energy, while the five goal burst in the second period had taken the wind out of Lee Valley’s sails. The Lions’ cause also wasn’t helped by captain Nick Alley injuring his knee in a collision with the boards, and then further aggravating it with a hit. Alley left the game with ten minutes remaining and did not return.

The home side extended their lead in the 56th minute with their last goal of the night, Taylor (55:14, assisted Robson) making it 8-3 as he put the puck past James Andrew. However there was still time for the Lions to get a consolation goal, tying the third period at 1 goal apiece. The forward line of Ben Gillingham, Simon Geldart and Matthew Hepburn had worked hard all night, and they were rewarded for their efforts as Gillingham (58:11, assisted Hepburn) scored with just under two minutes to go in the game to make it 8-4.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions could once again look back on a game in which they were the better side for large portions, but a few moments of madness had cost them a win that they would have deserved. The Man of the Match award for the visitors went to defenceman Matthew Hamilton. The Lions will hope for a better result this Sunday when the Basingstoke Buffalo, currently 11th in the league standings, visit the Den.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats 8-4 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 2-1/5-2/1-1

Shots: Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats 50-33 Lee Valley Lions (17-7/22-12/11-14)

Penalty Minutes: Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats 8-8 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Swindon – Adrian Dusznik 2+0, Loris Taylor 2+0, Harvey Robson 1+1, Reed Sayers 1+1, Christopher Leykam 0+2, Eliot Randall 1+0, Jake Williams 1+0, Adam Coakley 0+1, Callum Stockley-Phillips 0+1, Ethan Easton 0+1, Corey Herbert 0+1

Lee Valley – Matthew Hepburn 1+1, Ben Gillingham 1+1, Matt Brown 1+0, Simon Geldart 1+0

Goaltenders: Swindon – Michael Crisp (40:00 played, 19 shots/3 goals against), Liam McGuire (20:00 played, 14 shots/1 goal against)

Lee Valley – Brett Shepherd (31:16 played, 33 shots/6 goals against), James Andrew (28:44 played, 17 shots/2 goals against)

Man of the Match – Matthew Hamilton (Lee Valley)

Chelmsford Double Header Report

Lions Conquered by Chieftains

The Lee Valley Lions began the month of March by welcoming the Chelmsford Chieftains to the Den, for the first of two back-to-back games between the sides over the weekend. The return match at the Riverside in Chelmsford would take place the very next day.

The Lions iced a somewhat weakened side of 12 skaters plus netminders James Andrew (who got the start) and Brett Shepherd. Missing for the Lions were Chris Fox, Ashley West, Ben Gillingham, Arran Hartley, Robyn Maby, Tom Hurley and Ashley Earll as well as long-term injured forward Ben Duffy.

The visitors from Essex also brought along 12 skaters, but it was a high quality roster; six of those 12 were part of the Chieftains sides that dominated NIHL South 1 in recent years, while import Michal Oravec scored at a rate of 1.18 points per game across five seasons in the league above. Young netminder Billy Cook started between the pipes for the Chieftains.

1st Period: The Lions came out confidently at the start of the game, trying to get in the faces of the opposition and not letting them dictate the pace. Lee Valley captain Nick Alley saw a shot ricochet off the pipes in the fifth minute before the Lions took the lead shortly afterwards, as a shot from a long way out by Matt Brown (5:16, assisted by Daniel Tamasauskas) squeezed through Cook and into the Chieftains’ net. It took the visitors just over two minutes to equalise however, forward Ross Brears (7:35, assisted Donald Campbell) levelling the scores at one apiece.

Chelmsford then took the lead just 40 seconds later, captain Anthony Leone (8:15, assisted Cameron Bartlett and Grant Bartlett) firing past Andrew in the Lions net after good interplay with the Chieftains’ dangerous Bartlett twins. When veteran Chelmsford defenceman Danny Wright sat a penalty for holding, the Lions tried all they could to get back into the game on the powerplay; but the Chieftains were able to kill off the penalty. The home side did create some good chances as the period wore on, with Matt Brown and Oliver Glover forcing Cook into some impressive saves. At the other end, James Andrew flashed the leather to deny Cameron Bartlett on the breakaway.

Sadly for the Lions, the visitors were able to extend their advantage with just over two minutes left until the first intermission as Grant Bartlett (17:37, assisted Donald Campbell) showed why he was chosen as NIHL South 2 Player of the Month for February as he unleashed a rocket of a slapshot past a helpless James Andrew. The Lions continued trying to fight back after this, with Alley forcing a save from Cook, but the Chieftains would make it 4-1 with a buzzer beater right at the end of the period as Thomas Wilson (20:00, assisted C. Bartlett and Michal Oravec) put the puck past Andrew. The first period finished 4-1 to the visitors, who outshot the Lions 24-10.

2nd Period: The home side once again came out strongly at the start of the second period, with Ross Sin-Hidge forcing a good save from Cook in the 22nd minute. At the other end, Lions netminder James Andrew was hurt whilst stopping a shot and stayed down for some time, but was able to continue. However the Chieftains would break the Lee Valley resistance with a pair of braces within the following six minutes. Firstly Michal Oravec (25:20, assisted Wilson) scored on the breakaway and Wilson (25:30, assisted C. Bartlett and Oravec) scrambled the puck home to put the visitors 5-1 and 6-1 up respectively just ten seconds apart. Not too long after that, Oravec (29:23, assisted G. Bartlett and Leone) scored on the PP with Simon Jones in the box for hooking to make it 7-1, and G. Bartlett (29:36, assisted Will Polston and Danny Wright) made it 8-1, just 13 seconds apart.

At this point, the Lions swapped goaltenders with Brett Shepherd relieving James Andrew in net. This seemed to galvanise the Lions for a while, as Sin-Hidge had a shorthanded chance in the 33rd minute before defenceman Matthew Hamilton shot wide of Cook’s net in the 36th minute. However when Lions forward Matt Brown went to the box for hooking, the Chieftains took advantage on the subsequent powerplay as G. Bartlett (38:39, assisted C. Bartlett and Wilson) put the visitors 9-1 up. There was still time for the Chieftains to hit double figures as C. Bartlett (39:23, assisted Elliott Dervish and TJ Fillery) made the score 10-1, and with just three seconds left in the second period the Essex side extended the lead to 11-1 as Brears (39:57, assisted Oravec) completed the scoring in the second period. The Chieftains outshot the Lions 28-8 in the middle frame.

3rd Period: The home side came out for the third period with purpose despite the large deficit, and got a consolation goal in the third minute of the period as Ross Sin-Hidge (42:55, assisted Nick Alley and Matthew Hamilton) finally got on the board with a powerplay marker after creating several chances throughout the game. The Lions had a further chance in the 47th minute but James Joseph shot wide of Cook’s net. At the other end of the ice, the Chieftains extended the lead to 12-2 as Wilson (47:43, assisted Oravec) broke the deadlock for the period in the 48th minute. Two more goals would follow in the next three minutes with G. Bartlett (49:52, assisted Dervish and C. Bartlett) grabbing his fourth of the night before Brears (50:58, assisted Dervish) unleashed a hard slapshot past Shepherd for 14-2. The last goal of the evening came from Wilson (55:17, unassisted) who bagged his fourth of the night and made the final score 15-2, the visitors outshooting the hosts 21-12 in the third period.

After a tough night for the Lions against a strong opponent, forward Matt Brown took home the Man of the Match award for a determined offensive performance including the first Lee Valley goal. Chelmsford’s import forward Oravec picked up the award for his side.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 2-15 Chelmsford Chieftains

Period Scores: 1-4/0-7/1-4

Shots: Lee Valley Lions 30-73 Chelmsford Chieftains (10-24/8-28/12-21)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 20-16 Chelmsford Chieftains

Scorers:  Lee Valley – Matt Brown 1+0, Ross Sin-Hidge 1+0, Matthew Hamilton 0+1, Nick Alley 0+1, Daniel Tamasauskas 0+1

Chelmsford – Thomas Wilson 4+2, Grant Bartlett 4+2, Cameron Bartlett 1+5, Michal Oravec 2+4, Ross Brears 3+0, Elliott Dervish 0+3, Anthony Leone 1+1, Donald Campbell 0+2, TJ Fillery 0+1, Will Polston 0+1, Danny Wright 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (29:36 played, 38 shots/8 goals against), Brett Shepherd (30:24 played, 35 shots/7 goals against)

Chelmsford – Billy Cook (60:00 played, 30 shots/2 goals against)

Man of the Match – Matt Brown (Lee Valley), Michal Oravec (Chelmsford)

Lions Fall to Chieftains Despite Alley Hat-Trick

After losing 15-2 at home to the Chelmsford Chieftains the previous night, the Lee Valley Lions travelled to Essex for the return game 24 hours later hoping for a better performance and result.

The Lions welcomed back Ben Gillingham and backup netminder Robyn Maby, but were missing Brett Shepherd, Chris Fox, Ashley West, Ross-Sin-Hidge, Arran Hartley, Tom Hurley, Oliver Glover and Ashley Earll as well as long-term injured forward Ben Duffy – giving them just 11 skaters. James Andrew started in net for the second night in a row. Chelmsford iced an unchanged side of 12 skaters plus goaltender Billy Cook.

1st Period: The Lions were unable to repeat the strong start they showed the previous night, this time going down 1-0 in the third minute as Cameron Bartlett (2:27, assisted Robert Veares) put the home side ahead. The Chieftains would double their advantage four minutes later when Czech forward Michal Oravec (6:50, assisted Ross Brears and Danny Wright) put them 2-0 up.

However the visitors knuckled down after this and made it tough for the Chieftains, with the home side also taking a couple of penalties. While they killed off a roughing call against Ross Brears, the hosts were unable to do the same when Danny Wright went to the box for delay of game; Lions captain Nick Alley (16:09, assisted Ben Gillingham) halved the deficit on the powerplay with a well-worked goal. Alley had won the puck with a big hit on the Chieftains blueline, then played a give-and-go with Ben Gillingham before taking the return feed and burying past Billy Cook in the Chieftains net. There was still time for one more goal in the first period, and this came from the home side as C. Bartlett (17:34, assisted Thomas Wilson and Grant Bartlett) extended Chelmsford’s lead to 3-1. The hosts outshot the Lions 15-3 in the opening frame.

2nd Period: The second period did not start well for Lee Valley, as they conceded three goals in the first six minutes to go 6-1 down. Doing the damage for the Chieftains were blueliner Donald Campbell (22:10, assisted Wright), NIHL South 2 Player of the Month for February Grant Bartlett (25:15, assisted Oravec and C. Bartlett) and then his twin brother Cameron Bartlett (26:01, unassisted) who completed his hat-trick.

The last 14 minutes of the second period would be tighter, as the Lions cut down on mistakes and put pressure on the home side. Chelmsford had a few penalties to kill, but they managed to keep the Lions’ powerplay quiet and did not concede. Just one more goal would fall in the second frame as G. Bartlett (34:09, assisted Anthony Leone and C. Bartlett) scored his second of the night in the 35th minute to extend the Chelmsford lead to 7-1. The period ended with both sides level on shots, both James Andrew and Billy Cook having faced 16 each in their respective nets.

3rd Period: The third and final period had a wild start with two goals within the first two minutes. First of all the Chieftains made it 8-1 as G. Bartlett (41:05, assisted C. Bartlett and Leone) became the second Bartlett twin to compete his hat-trick on the night with a shorthanded goal, before the Lions would score a goal on the same powerplay through Matthew Hepburn (41:20, assisted Gillingham) with Ben Gillingham getting his second assist of the night.

The Lions would then show their spirit in scoring two more goals within the next four minutes to get the score back to 8-4 and give the Chieftains something to think about. First Alley (43:19, assisted Simon Geldart) bagged his second of the night before Hepburn (45:15, assisted Matt Brown and Gillingham) followed suit just two minutes later. And although the Chieftains extended the lead to 9-4 with C. Bartlett (49:38, assisted Campbell) scoring his fourth of the night, the Lions were again able to respond on the powerplay as Alley (52:34) got an unassisted marker to complete his hat-trick on the night and bring the score back to 9-5. Alley was moved to centre in this game from his usual position on the wings, and was able to make the most of his altered position to grab a hat-trick, his second of the season.

Two more Chieftains goals followed as the Lions tired late in the game, home captain Anthony Leone (53:12, assisted C. Bartlett and G. Bartlett) scoring their 10th and Wilson (54:43, assisted Oravec and C. Bartlett) completing the scoring with a powerplay goal which was their 11th of the evening. As the final buzzer sounded, the away side could be proud of their efforts as they put in a much better performance than the previous night, and were rewarded for their efforts with five goals on the night. Lions hat-trick hero Alley took home the Man of the Match award, while Grant Bartlett took home the award for his side.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Chelmsford Chieftains 11-5 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 3-1/4-0/4-4

Shots: Chelmsford Chieftains 43-31 Lee Valley Lions (13-5/16-16/14-10)

Penalty Minutes: Chelmsford Chieftains 40-8 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Chelmsford – Cameron Bartlett 4+5, Grant Bartlett 3+2, Michal Oravec 1+2, Anthony Leone 1+2, Thomas Wilson 1+1, Donald Campbell 1+1, Danny Wright 0+2, Ross Brears 0+1, Robert Veares 0+1

Lee Valley – Nick Alley 3+0, Ben Gillingham 0+3, Matthew Hepburn 2+0, Matt Brown 0+1, Simon Geldart 0+1

Goaltenders: Chelmsford – Billy Cook (60:00 played, 31 shots/5 goals against)

Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 43 shots/11 goals against)

Man of the Match – Nick Alley (Lee Valley), Grant Bartlett (Chelmsford)

The Lions’ next match is a trip to face Swindon Wildcats on Saturday March 17th.

You can keep up to date with the Lions on FacebookTwitter and Instagram using the hashtag #LeeValleyLions.

Oxford & Basingstoke Report

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.

GAME STATS*
*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.

GAME STATS*
*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)

Lions Pay the Penalty in Pitbulls Defeat

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.

GAME STATS

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.

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