It was a truly up-and-down weekend for the Lee Valley Lions, as they followed up a heavy 15-3 away defeat at Haringey with an extremely tight 5-4 home defeat against the same opposition just 24 hours later.
The Lions were missing forwards Ross Sin-Hidge (last game of his suspension), Robert Cole, Joe Berry, Joe Miller and Harry O’Brien for Saturday’s road game, as well as defenceman Richie Pickering. Getting the start in net for the Lions was James Andrew.
First Period: The league-leading Huskies, who are yet to lose a league game this season, started off like a house on fire as they racked up six goals in the first period of play through Stephen Woodford (x2), former Lions forward Matthew Hepburn (x2), Lee Mercer and Luke Martin-Digby.
At the other end, the Lions managed to bag two goals in the opening period; firstly through Harry Sage (6:19), who was making his debut for the club after signing from Streatham, and then Jordan Ho (13:08) who scored a shorthanded goal. That was already the Hong Kong international forward’s 13th tally of the season in only his ninth game for the club.
Second Period: The Huskies extended their lead to 8-2 midway through the second period with goals from Ricky Rutherford and Stuart Appleby, before the Lions made a change of netminders with Naomi Healey relieving James Andrew at the 30 minute mark.
This didn’t stem the flow of Huskies goals however, as Rutherford scored again before Huskies captain Woodford bagged his third and fourth markers of the evening to give the home side a big 11-2 lead going into the final period.
Third Period: It was the Lions who scored the third goal of the last period, as Vinnie Ferrara (42:58) grabbed his second goal of the season with an assist from James Joseph.
But as the Lions tired more and more as the period wore on, the Huskies didn’t let up. The home side scored four more goals through James Pentecost (x2), Matthew Hepburn who completed a hat-trick, and Stephen Woodford who rounded things off with his 5th goal of the night, for a very one-sided final score of 15-3 to Haringey.
The same two sides then met again at Lee Valley Ice Centre the very next day, this time in NIHL South 2 Cup action. The Lions welcomed back Sin-Hidge, Berry, Miller and Pickering for this game, giving them a much healthier bench size of 17 players. James Andrew once again got the nod between the pipes.
First Period: The Lions definitely showed they had a point to prove, starting the game strongly and putting the Huskies under real pressure. And it was the home side that opened the scoring in the ninth minute, 18-year-old forward Lewis Blore (8:17) getting his first goal of the season after defenceman Oscar Kally – playing just his second game for the Lions – showed great attacking instincts to take the puck into the offensive zone, which led to the goal.
However it was 1-1 just a minute later as James Pentecost equalised for the Huskies; and the visitors then went 2-1 up late in the opening period through former Lions forward Ben Duffy after a defensive breakdown for the home side. The score remained 2-1 at the end of the first period – much improved from a Lions perspective compared to the previous evening.
Second Period: The opening six minutes of the middle period would prove to be crucial in the game, as the Huskies came out very well and scored three more goals through Mark Robinson, Ryan Payne and James Hepburn – all former Lions players – to make it 5-1 to the visitors in the 26th minute.
This would have left some Lions fans feeling a sense of déjà vu and fearing another heavy defeat, but instead the home side raised their game once again, creating several chances and finally getting rewarded in the 39th minute as Simon Jones took a slapshot from the blueline and Joe Berry (38:22) tucked home the rebound on the powerplay, to get the deficit back to 2-5 from a Lions perspective.
Third Period: And the last period would start out very well for the Lions as Ross Sin-Hidge (45:00) celebrated his first game back after a four match ban, scoring a goal on the breakaway after a superb steal from Jordan Sullivan in the Lions defensive zone. This brought the score back to 3-5 with 15 minutes left to play.
The rest of the game was frantic, with chances at both ends; the Lions cut the deficit even further in the 56th minute as Jordan Ho (55:18) tucked the puck home from a tight angle for his 14th goal of the season, making it 4-5 with four minutes to go.
But try as they might, the Lions were not able to score that equalising goal, despite pulling netminder James Andrew for an extra attacker late on. As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions went down to an agonisingly close 5-4 defeat after what was likely their best performance of the season.
Oscar Kally took home the Player of the Game award for the Lions after making a good impression on the blueline, with Stuart Appleby taking home the same award for the visitors.
The Lions are next in action against Peterborough this upcoming Saturday 16th November in league action. Faceoff at Lee Valley Ice Centre will be at 17:30.