Just 24 hours after losing a 15-goal thriller away to London rivals Haringey, the Lee Valley Lions were back in action on Sunday night, playing their first home game of the season at the newly-refurbished Lee Valley Ice Centre. The opponents would be the Bracknell Hornets, one of four sides who dropped a division from NIHL South 1 to South 2 in the summer.
The Lions welcomed back Jordan Turner and Matthew Hepburn for their first appearances of the season; but were missing Robyn Maby, Brett Shepherd, Robin Young, Daniel Tamasauskas, Lee Hounslow and captain Nick Alley, giving them 13 skaters plus netminder James Andrew.
Bracknell brought 19 skaters and goalies Will Sanderson and James Richardson to the Den. 15 of Bracknell’s 21 players competed in the EPL and/or NIHL South 1 last season, so the game would be a stern test for a Lions side still not at full strength.
1st Period: The Hornets got off to a blistering start in period 1, showing their quality instantly as Ben Ealey-Newman (00:50, assisted Will Sanderson) raced through to put the puck past James Andrew in the Lions net after taking a direct feed from Bracknell netminder Sanderson. They doubled their lead just two minutes later, American import Sean Scarbrough (2:49, assisted Steve Fisher) netted after good interplay with fellow Streatham alumnus Steve Fisher on the powerplay with James Joseph in the box. The Lions managed to withstand further Hornets attacks for the next eight minutes, and had a few chances of their own as Hornets netminder Sanderson had to flash the leather on a couple of occasions.
The Hornets went 3-0 up just after the halfway stage of the first period, Josh Ealey-Newman (10:24, assisted Will Stead) firing past Andrew, and after the Hornets killed a penalty against former Chelmsford Chieftains defenceman Carl Graham, they extended their advantage to 4-0 as Fisher (16:36, assisted B. Ealey-Newman and Scarbrough) scored his first of the evening. And it was 5-0 in the last minute of the first period, Scarbrough (19:31, assisted Fisher) clinically tucked home a rebound after Andrew had made a fine save to deny Fisher. The Hornets took a five goal advantage into the first intermission.
2nd Period: The second period saw a change of netminders for Bracknell, as they replaced Sanderson with former Invicta Dynamos goaltender James Richardson. This did not bring about a change in fortunes for the Lions however, who continued to push hard but were unable to create many concrete chances. They did keep the Hornets quiet at the other end of the ice for the first twelve minutes of the period, and after an altercation involving Bracknell’s Ben Ealey-Newman and Simon Geldart of the Lions, both sat two minutes for roughing.
During the ensuing 4-on-4 passage of play, James Joseph was penalised for holding back Steve Fisher, and the referee awarded a penalty shot which Fisher (32:54) converted for 6-0. And the Hornets made it 7-0 four minutes later as Scarbrough and Fisher found themselves alone in the Lions zone after a lovely feed from Ben Ealey-Newman, and Fisher (36:48, assisted Scarbrough and B. Ealey-Newman) duly put the puck past Andrew following a pass across the face of goal from Scarbrough. This completed the hat-trick for the Hornets captain. The period would end with the Hornets 7-0 up, having only scored two goals in the period with just one coming from open play, as the Lions put in a far better defensive performance.
3rd Period: The Hornets well and truly put the game to bed in the first 1:21 of the final period with a three-goal blitz putting them 10-0 up. Josh Ealey-Newman (40:25, assisted Stead) made it 8-0 just 25 seconds into the period; Hughes (40:54, assisted Jack Hayes and Stead) then made it 9-0 with a blistering shot past Andrew; and the Hornets hit double figures as Scarbrough (41:21, assisted Harvey Hind-Pitcher and Fisher) completed his own hat-trick.
Even at 10-0 down, the Lions did not let their heads drop as they kept pushing for a goal, and came close a few times but couldn’t get the puck in the net. Bracknell, meanwhile, continued to pepper James Andrew with shots, and scored their 11th and final goal of the evening as player-coach Hughes (49:55, assisted Stead and J. Ealey-Newman) unleashed his second cannon of the evening that Andrew could not keep out.
The Lions did manage to grab a well-deserved goal with seven minutes to go, as Matt Brown (52:39, assisted Ben Duffy and Matthew Hepburn) scored his first goal as a Lion following nice interplay with Duffy and Hepburn. All three forwards had worked tirelessly throughout the game so it was just reward for their efforts. The last seven minutes then passed without much incident, with the Hornets coming away from the Den with an 11-1 victory.
Although the margin of victory was high, the Lions can be proud of their efforts against a team with a much larger bench containing many players with higher level experience. James Andrew was once again impressive in goal stopping 57 of 68 shots, while the Lee Valley forwards never stopped chasing the puck even when the score reached double figures.
For Bracknell, captain Steve Fisher was awarded Man of the Match for his 3+3 on the night, while lone goalscorer Matt Brown took the honours for Lee Valley.
*Please note, some stats vary from those on the official game sheet
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 1-11 Bracknell Hornets
Period Scores: 0-5/0-2/1-4
Shots: Lee Valley 30-68 Bracknell (11-16/9-26/10-26)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 4-6 Bracknell
Scorers: Lee Valley – Matt Brown (1+0), Ben Duffy (0+1), Matthew Hepburn (0+1)
Bracknell – Steve Fisher (3+3), Sean Scarbrough (3+2), Will Stead (0+4), Josh Ealey-Newman (2+1), Ben Ealey-Newman (1+2), Danny Hughes (0+2), Jack Hayes (0+1), Will Sanderson (0+1), Harvey Hind-Pitcher (0+1), Carl Graham (0+1)
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 68 shots/11 goals against)
Bracknell – Will Sanderson (20:00 played, 11 shots/0 goals against), James Richardson (40:00 played, 19 shots/1 goal against)
Man of the Match – Matt Brown (Lee Valley), Steve Fisher (Bracknell)
The Lions’ next game is at home to the Guildford Phoenix on Sunday 1st October.