After a long off-season of more than five months, the Lee Valley Lions finally kicked off the new National Ice Hockey League South 2 campaign with a home game against the Streatham Hawks.
The Lions were beaten on the night, but the end scoreline of 9-2 is not fully reflective of the game as a whole, and there were plenty of positives for the Lions coaching staff to take away from the opening game of the season.
The East London side iced 14 skaters for the game as well as netminder James Andrew, with eight players making their Lions debut. Five of the players on show for the Lions were born in 2001, giving the team a very youthful feel.
First Period: Streatham came out well in the early stages of the game and put the Lions under pressure, but found Andrew in good form in the Lee Valley net. The Hawks then let themselves down with ill-discipline, taking several penalties which disrupted their momentum in the game.
The Hawks nonetheless took the lead just after the midway point of the first period, Ryan Burgess scoring a 4-on-3 powerplay goal to put them 1-0 up at 11:02. Streatham then followed that up with another goal six minutes later, Czech forward Kamil Kinkor slotting the puck past Andrew with a precise shot at the 17:07 mark.
Lee Valley created a lot of chances towards the end of the period, with Joe Miller and newcomer Lewis Blore both testing Hawks netminder Harry Buckingham, but the Lions couldn’t quite get the puck in the net and ended the first period 2-0 down.
Second Period: The Lions came out extremely well at the start of the second period, with Hong Kong international forward Jordan Ho having a couple of chances to score and Ben Margerison also coming close.
They were finally awarded for their persistence at the 29:23 mark, as Jordan Ho scored a powerplay goal to halve Streatham’s lead, and bring the Lions back into the game at 1-2 down.
Unfortunately for the Lions, towering defenceman Daniel Tamasauskas then headed to the box for checking to the head, and Streatham’s Czech sharpshooter Kinkor punished them for that as he buried a powerplay goal to put the Hawks 3-1 up, a score that would remain until the end of the second period.
This was despite more Lions chances for Miller, Blore and Ho, who all impressed for the East London side but couldn’t quite solve the riddle of Buckingham more than once in the second frame.
Third Period: The Lions came out very slowly at the start of the third period, and were made to pay twice as Kinkor scored two more goals on the night with precise shots, putting the South Londoners into a seemingly unassailable 5-1 lead.
But the Lions didn’t let their heads dropped, and managed to get themselves back into the game in the 49th minute as Jordan Ho scored his second goal of the night with an assist from fellow newcomer Ben Margerison, to give the Lions hope at 5-2 down.
However the Lions seemed to tire in the closing stages, shipping four goals in the final seven minutes to give the scoreline a rather ugly feel; Alec Goldstone, Leo Saoncella, Harry Sage and former Lion Gus Zimmerman each had a goal to complete the scoring for the night.
It was a disappointing end to the game for the Lions, but they can take pride in the way they played in the first 40 minutes – and will feel they have unearthed a gem of a player in Jordan Ho, who scored both of his club’s goals on debut and was awarded Man of the Match for his efforts.
The Lions are next in action over the weekend of the 28th and 29th of September, travelling to Bracknell on the Saturday before hosting another London derby on the Sunday as Haringey come to town.