Smith Stars on Debut as Lions Lose to Pitbulls

The Lee Valley Lions took on the Bristol Pitbulls on Saturday, with the home side still looking for their first points of the season.

The Lions once again had a multitude of players missing, leaving the home side with just 11 skaters as well as netminders James Andrew and Steve Grout. The hosts did hand a debut to 17-year-old Conner Smith, the former Streatham junior making his first appearance in senior hockey. Bristol brought 17 skaters as well as starting netminder Andrew Leckie and backup Ross Miller.

First Period – The opening period was not a good one for the Lions, as they started off slowly and gifted the Pitbulls a few early goals. Olly Shone (3:02, assisted Richard Hargreaves and Adrian Smith) opened the scoring just over three minutes in, and Giacomo Raffaelli (4:30, unassisted) doubled the visitors’ advantage just a minute and a half later. And it was to be 3-0 in favour of the Pitbulls in the ninth minute too, as Steve Osman (8:23, assisted A. Smith and Sam Shone) buried the puck past James Andrew in the Lions net – this despite the Lions creating two great chances just moments earlier, both coming through Joe Berry.

There were to be two further Pitbulls goals in the period too, as the scoreline started to get away from the home side; Grant Richardson (12:28, assisted David Manning and R. Hargreaves) made it 4-0 on the powerplay with Lions defenceman Jake Wadge in the box for hooking, before A. Smith (18:47, assisted O. Shone) completed the scoring for the period, making it 5-0 going into the first break. The Lions managed 13 shots in the first period, but scored on none of them whereas the Pitbulls converted five of the 23 that they attempted.

Second Period – Whatever Lions player-coach James Joseph said in the first intermission, it obviously worked – the Lions came out far better in the second period, looking more organised at the back and also more confident up front. They scored just 34 seconds into the period, Conner Smith (20:34, assisted James O’Brien and Tom Hnilica) scoring his first goal in senior hockey in his first senior game, after a lovely stretch pass by O’Brien set him off on a breakaway.

And things got even better for the hosts in the 29th minute, with Czech forward Tom Hnilica (28:12, assisted Gus Zimmerman) being fed a lovely pass by Gus Zimmerman and duly burying it past Leckie in the Pitbulls net. It was Hnilica’s seventh goal of the season, with Zimmerman picking up his fourth assist in just his fourth game in a Lions jersey. The Lions also thought they had a third goal, Smith putting the puck home but being adjudged to have been standing in the crease at the time, and thus the goal was washed out.

Sadly for the Lions, the Pitbulls got one back in the 33rd minute through Josh Galea (32:20, assisted Jamie Newton and Osman), who scored on the powerplay with Jake Wadge again in the box, this time for tripping. This didn’t put the Lions off though, and they created multiple chances towards the end of the period – with Hnilica, Joseph and Zimmerman all going close – but there was to be no more scoring in the period, as the Pitbulls led 6-2 going into the second break, having outshot the Lions 21-14 but losing the period by a score of 2-1.

Third Period – In the final period, the short bench of the Lions started to show as they made a few tired plays and let the Pitbulls extend their advantage; first Osman (42:55, assisted Newton and Galea) and then O. Shone (44:09, assisted A. Smith) scored to make the score 8-2 with over 15 minutes still to play. The Lions did come close to scoring a few times shortly after, with both Berry and Michael Jacobs testing Leckie in the Bristol net.

Things got even tougher for a tiring Lions team as Joe Trotter took a 2+10 for boarding with ten minutes left, effectively ending his evening; while Bristol did not score on that powerplay, they scored on another one soon after as Osman (53:06, assisted Jack Hayes) completed his hat-trick and made it 9-2 with Conner Smith in the box, before O. Shone (55:16, assisted Manning) completed his own hat-trick and made it 10-2 in the 56th minute.

The home side did give their fans something to cheer about late on, C. Smith (57:02) scoring his second of the night on the breakaway, before a crazy ending that saw three goals scored within the last two minutes of the game; Bristol made it 11-3 through Newton (58:12, assisted O. Shone and Michael Hargreaves), the Lions got it back to 11-4 as Zimmerman (59:11, assisted Hnilica and C. Smith) scored his first goal as a Lion, and finally Richardson (59:27, assisted Osman and A. Smith) scored Bristol’s 12th and rounded out the score for the evening.

After a crazy game in which they conceded five unanswered goals in the first period, won the second period 2-1, then tired in the third to lose the period 6-2 and the game 12-4, the Lions will look back at this one with mixed emotions. If they can play like they did in the second period over a full 60 minutes, they have a real chance of taking that elusive first win of the season really soon.

Connor Smith was awarded Man of the Match for a brilliant debut, in which he scored two goals and assisted a further one while looking threatening all night, while Olly Shone took home the award for the visitors.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 4-12 Bristol Pitbulls

Period Scores: 0-5/2-1/2-6

Shots: Lee Valley 43-81 Bristol (13-23/14-21/16-37)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 22-6 Bristol

Scorers: Lee Valley – Conner Smith 2+1, Tom Hnilica 1+2, Gus Zimmerman 1+1, James O’Brien 0+1
Bristol – Steve Osman 3+2, Olly Shone 3+2, Adrian Smith 1+4, Jamie Newton 1+2, Grant Richardson 2+0, Josh Galea 1+1, David Manning 0+2, Richard Hargreaves 0+2, Giacomo Raffaelli 1+0, Sam Shone 0+1, Michael Hargreaves 0+1, Jack Hayes 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 81 shots/12 goals against)
Bristol – Andrew Leckie (60:00 played, 43 shots/4 goals against)

Man of the Match – Conner Smith (Lee Valley), Olly Shone (Bristol)

The Lee Valley Lions are next in action at home on Saturday 15th December against the Solent Devils, and again the following day against the Chelmsford Chieftains. Faceoff at Lee Valley Ice Centre for both games will be at 17:30.

Lions Show Improvement in Oxford Defeat

The Lee Valley Lions welcomed reigning league champions, the Oxford City Stars, to the Den on Sunday evening. Oxford were lying second in the league while the Lions were still searching for their first win of the season, so it was sure to be a tough task for the home side.

It was not made any easier by the fact that a number of Lions players were unavailable for the fixture, leaving the home side with just 11 skaters as well as netminders James Andrew and Steve Grout, the latter returning after a few weeks out injured. Oxford brought 17 skaters as well as starting netminder Mark Duffy and backup John Dibble.

First Period – Oxford started the game extremely well, scoring five goals within the first eleven minutes of the game as they showed what a skilled team they are. Matthew LawdayMichal OravecTom DavisDarren Elliott and Josh Oliver all got on the scoresheet for the visitors within the first 10:55 of the game, and it looked like the scoreline could get very high indeed. This is not to say that the Lions didn’t have chances – Joe Berry in particular was lively and created a few scoring opportunities for the home side, as did Richard Hodge and Gus Zimmerman, but the puck didn’t want to go into the net for Lee Valley in the early stages.

Credit to the Lions who knuckled down after conceding those five goals, tightening up at the back and not conceding again in the remainder of the first period. Zimmerman in particular was impressive on the blueline – he had played as a forward in his previous two games in a Lions jersey, so showed his versatility in this game by helping out at the back with a number of defencemen not able to play. The Lions also finished the period off well, as they scored their first goal of the game through Berry (18:33, assisted Richard Hodge) to make the score 5-1 in favour of Oxford going into the first intermission.

Second Period – The Lions’ hopes were further dashed at the start of the second period when Oliver Glover was unable to continue in the game, so the home side were down to ten skaters for the remainder of the contest. However, the Lions were again solid at the start of the middle period, holding off Oxford’s forwards and creating some chances of their own with Michael Jacobs, Czech forward Tom Hnilica and the aforementioned Gus Zimmerman – now playing as a forward – all coming close to further reducing the deficit.

Oxford did manage to score another goal in the 28th minute of the game to make it 6-1, with Jake Florey (27:26, assisted Josh Oliver) grabbing the goal, but the Lions will have been happy with the 17 minute gap between Oxford’s fifth and sixth goals. The home side would have been even happier just a minute and a half later as Hnilica (28:52, assisted James Joseph and Berry) raced through on a breakaway and finished past Duffy with a slick backhander to reduce the deficit to 6-2.

As the period went on, the ten men of the home side did start to tire; and the champions took full advantage as they scored three more goals through Lee Richardson and two from Joe Edwards; this meant that the score was 9-2 in favour of the visitors heading into the second break.

Third Period – The Lions’ aim for the third period would have been to stick to their systems and not give up a deluge of final period goals as they had done in the recent games against Haringey and Bracknell; this aim looked in danger just four minutes into the period as Oxford scored twice to make the score 11-2, Lawday (42:25, assisted Edwards and Dominic Hopkins) and then Oravec (43:30, assisted Elliott and Josh Oliver) doing the damage.

The Lions switched netminders at this point with Steve Grout replacing James Andrew, and this seemed to give the Lions the lift they needed to see out the rest of the game without conceding too many more goals. Although the visitors did make it 12-2 through a hat-trick goal from Lawday (46:07, assisted Hopkins and Davis), the home side then went the next twelve minutes without conceding again, as they kept their heads up and continued to work hard despite tired legs all around.

The home side scored their third goal of the game too as Berry (53:50, assisted Joseph and Jake Wadge) bagged his second goal of the game and got the score back to 12-3. And while Oxford finished off the scoring with just a few minutes left as Harry Harrison (58:52, assisted Elliott) scored a short-handed goal – following a 5+game penalty against Oxford forward Michal Oravec for high-sticking –  the Lions would have been somewhat content with the 13-3 final score considering it was against probably the toughest opponent they had faced this season to date.

After only scoring one goal in two games the previous weekend, the Lions managed to score three goals in this game against the champions; while the defence looked more solid and composed in this game compared to the last few, despite being low on numbers. Man of the Match for the Lions was the versatile Gus Zimmerman who impressed both as a defenceman and as a forward, while Joe Edwards took home the same award for the visitors.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 3-13 Oxford City Stars

Period Scores: 1-5/1-4/1-4

Shots: Lee Valley 22-69 Oxford (8-21/5-29/7-19)

Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 4-31 Oxford

Scorers: Lee Valley – Joe Berry 2+1, James Joseph 0+2, Tom Hnilica 1+0, Jake Wadge 0+1, Richard Hodge 0+1
Oxford – Matthew Lawday 3+2, Joe Edwards 2+2, Michal Oravec 2+2, Josh Oliver 1+3, Darren Elliott 1+3, Jake Florey 1+1, Tom Davis 1+1, Lee Richardson 1+1, Harry Harrison 1+1, Dominic Hopkins 0+2, Josh Florey 0+1, Macaulay Coppock 0+1, Conor Redmond 0+1, Alexander Staples 0+1

Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (43:30 played, 53 shots/11 goals against); Steve Grout (16:30 played, 16 shots/2 goals against)
Oxford – Mark Duffy (60:00 played, 22 shots/3 goals against)

Man of the Match – Gus Zimmerman (Lee Valley), Joe Edwards (Oxford)

The Lee Valley Lions are next in action at home on Saturday 1st December against the Bristol Pitbulls. Faceoff at Lee Valley Ice Centre will be at 17:30.

The Lions gave a good account of themselves in defeat against the reigning champions (Photo: Tori Rigby)

Haringey and Romford Match Reports

The Lions played two road games last weekend, making short journeys to Haringey on Saturday to take on the Hornets, and Romford on Sunday to take on the NIHL2 Raiders.

Saturday at Haringey

The Lions arrived at Alexandra Palace with 15 skaters – missing were Jack Ball, Ben Gillingham, Joe Trotter, Joe Weare and Gus Zimmerman. Starting in goal was James Andrew.

First Period – For the second game in a row, the Lions were stung by a soft early goal as Haringey struck first through Gheorghe Dragomir (0:32). Following this early shock, the Lions battled back well and played one of their best periods of the season to date, creating several chances but not finding a way past David Wride in the Haringey net. And the Huskies made them pay late in the period as Dragomir (17:12) got his second of the night following a Lions defensive breakdown, with the Huskies leading 2-0 going into the first intermission.

Second Period – The Lions started the second period well and created a few opportunities, but as the period wore on the Huskies started to dominate possession more and created more chances of their own. The visitors also ran into penalty trouble, taking four minor penalties on the period, and the Huskies punished them with two powerplay goals as well as an even-handed marker – all three coming through Stephen Woodford – to lead 5-0 after two periods.

Third Period – The Lions came into the last period looking to get some goals back and make a game of it, but instead seemed to lose their energy and focus as the home side exerted their dominance and scored seven further goals. Stuart Appleby, Ricky Rutherford (x2), Ashlee Cave, Mark Robinson, Bryn Griffiths and Ben Osborne all did the damage as the Huskies ran rampant and pushed the score up to 12-0. Two of those goals came when the Huskies were shorthanded, while Robinson’s marker was on the powerplay.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions were left to rue the chances they didn’t take in the first two periods, as well as a disastrous third period in which they conceded seven goals. Man of the Match for the Lions was Michael Jacobs.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Haringey Huskies 12-0 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 2-0/5-0/7-0

Shots: Haringey Huskies 64-22 Lee Valley Lions (17-9/23-6/24-7)

Penalty Minutes: Haringey Huskies 32-20 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Haringey – Gheorghe Dragomir 2+3, Stephen Woodford 3+1, Mark Robinson 1+2, Ricky Rutherford 2+0, Stuart Appleby 1+1, Ben Osborne 1+1, Bryn Griffiths 1+0, Ashlee Cave 1+0, Jack Lee 0+1, David Wride 0+1, Sebastian Downing 0+1

Goaltenders: Haringey – David Wride (60:00 played, 22 shots/0 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 64 shots/12 goals against)

Man of the Match – Michael Jacobs (Lee Valley)

Sunday in Romford

The Lions took an almost identical lineup to Romford as had played in the previous night’s game, with the exception of Nicky Brathwaite who missed out and was replaced by a returning Gus Zimmerman.

First Period – The Lions came out well to start against the NIHL2 Raiders, determined to avoid a one-sided scoreline like that of the previous night. Despite an improved showing however, the Lions came unstuck several times during the period as individual errors cost them several goals. The Raiders scored four goals in the period, Alan Lack, Jake Hall, George Gell and Sam Roberts all getting the scoresheet, while the Lions couldn’t find a way past impressive Raiders netminder Brad Windebank so went into the first break trailing 4-0, despite a relative close shot count of 15-11 in favour of Romford.

Second Period – The following period was more of the same; the Lions hustled and worked hard to create chances but couldn’t beat Windebank, while at the other end, the hosts found ways to capitalise on mistakes and bury the puck. Just like in the first period, the Raiders scored four goals – these coming through Kamil Kinkor, Gell with his second of the night, Matthew Hamilton and Bailey Chittock. The Lions didn’t back down, actually outshooting the Raiders 13-12 during the period, but could not find that elusive goal so trailed 8-0 after two.

Third Period – The Raiders made it 10-0 in the first half of the final period, Ewan Hill scoring the ninth goal of the night and Chittock scoring his second of the evening to put the home side into double figures. The Lions continued to fight hard though, and were rewarded in the 54th minute as Tom Hnilica (53:15, assisted Gus Zimmerman and Joshua Irish) grabbed his fifth goal of the season to finally put the Lions on the board for the weekend and reduce the deficit to 10-1.

There was to be no more scoring in the game, but there was late drama as Raiders captain Sam Roberts checked Lions player-coach James Joseph hard with just four seconds left in the game, receiving a 2+10 for checking to the head for the hit. Lions defenceman Jake Wadge dropped the gloves and stood up for his teammate as he fought with Roberts. This did not affect the outcome of the game however, as the home side came away with a 10-1 win. Joe Berry took home the Man of the Match award for the Lions.

It was a frustrating weekend overall for the Lions; strong first and second periods on Saturday, and a strong third period on Sunday, bookending some disappointing periods of play in between. Next up for the Lions is a home game this coming Sunday against reigning league champions Oxford – faceoff will be at 17:30.

GAME STATS

Final Score: Romford NIHL2 Raiders 10-1 Lee Valley Lions

Period Scores: 4-0/4-0/2-1

Shots: Raiders 44-32 Lee Valley Lions (15-11/12-13/17-8)

Penalty Minutes: Raiders 32-6 Lee Valley Lions

Scorers: Raiders –George Gell 2+3, Bailey Chittock 2+1, Ewan Hill 1+2, Kamil Kinkor 1+2, Matt Brown 0+3,Alan Lack 1+1, Sam Roberts 1+1, Matt Hamilton 1+0, Jake Hall 1+0, Thomas Baptist 0+1, Daniel Hitchings 0+1, Tommy Huggett 0+1
Lee Valley – Tom Hnilica 1+0, Joshua Irish 0+1, Gus Zimmerman 0+1

Goaltenders: Raiders – Brad Windebank (60:00 played, 32 shots/1 goal against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 44 shots/10 goals against)

Man of the Match – Joe Berry (Lee Valley)

The Lions suffered two road defeats against Haringey and Romford (Photo: Tori Rigby)

Photos from Saturday’s game @ Ally Pally

Beverly Irish has kindly sent me photos she took from Saturday’s away game defeat to Haringey Huskies. You can find the album here. If you take photos at Lions games and would like them featured on the team’s website, please contact us.  Phil Hutchinson also has lots of photos from the game on his Flickr site.  Phil and Beverly took the new photos that form the slider at the top of the home page and are used with their permission.