After back-to-back Cup defeats to the Invicta Mustangs, the Lee Valley Lions welcomed the same opponents to East London on Saturday for the first league meeting between the sides this season.
The Lions were out for revenge, but their cause wasn’t helped by a number of first team players being unavailable for the fixture. In the end, a depleted Lions side went down to a tired 11-4 defeat.
With both Daniel Tamasauskas and James O’Brien unavailable for selection, the Lions only had three defencemen available for this game, meaning that forward Vinnie Ferrara dropped back to help bring that number up to four.
The East London side were also missing forwards Ross Sin-Hidge (banned after being ejected from last week’s game for fighting), Charlie Nichols and Jordan Sullivan.
First Period: The opening period started off pretty poorly for the Lions, going 2-0 down within the first ten minutes as Harry Blake and Regan O’Neil both scored for the visiting Mustangs.
The Lions hit back in the 16th minute though; forward Joe Berry charged into the zone with the puck and was tripped, and in the ensuing scramble as Berry lay on the ice behind the goal, Jordan Ho (15:12, assisted James Joseph and Ben Margerison) put the puck in the net to halve the deficit to 2-1. The assists went to James Joseph and Ben Margerison, but Berry deserves special mention for starting the move off.
The first period ended with the Lions 2-1 down, having been out-shot 17-14 by the visitors.
Second Period: Lee Valley started the middle period with some 5-on-3 powerplay time, which they couldn’t convert. At the other end, the Mustangs punished them for this as they went 4-1 up within the first five minutes of the period, with goals from Jake Luton and Richard Harris.
The Lions showed good spirit after going 4-1 down though, creating several chances and finally being rewarded in the 31st minute as female forward Leonie Charles (30:58, assisted Ben Margerison) scored her first goal in a Lions jersey with a tight angle shot that got through Mustangs goalie Matthew Passmore’s defences. The assist went to Margerison, who got his second helper of the night.
That brought the deficit back to 4-2, and things would get even better for the Lions five minutes later as Jordan Ho (35:03, assisted Joe Berry) grabbed his second goal of the game – already his ninth of the season in six games – with the assist coming from Berry. This got the score back to 4-3, with the Lions hoping to go into the second intermission just a goal down.
However things would take a turn for the worse with just under two minutes left in the second period, as Jake Luton scored a shorthanded goal for the Mustangs to put the Kent side 5-3 up heading into the intermission.
Third Period: That goal at the end of the second period seemed to be a killer for the already-tiring Lions, who didn’t come out sharply for the third frame at all and were punished by three goals from Michael Stokes, Kevin Lake and Finnley Taylor; putting Invicta 8-3 up.
The Lions’ cause was also not helped by stand-in defenceman Vinnie Ferrara picking up a knock, forcing prolific forward Jordan Ho to make up the numbers at the back rather than playing in his preferred position up front.
Vinnie Ferrara did eventually make it back onto the ice during the third period, and it was him who scored the Lions’ fourth goal of the game (54:40, assisted Jordan Ho and Joe Miller), finishing past Mustangs goalie Passmore on the breakaway after good build-up play from Joe Miller and Jordan Ho.
But the Lions’ small roster was fully exposed towards the end of the game, as a rampant Mustangs side scored three more goals to put the cherry on the cake from their perspective; Jake Luton completed his hat-trick before Thomas Dennis and Richard Harris completed the scoring.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions slipped to a disappointing 11-4 home defeat. Player of the Game for the Lions was the impressive Leonie Charles after her first goal for the club, while hat-trick man Jake Luton took home the award for the Mustangs.
The Lions will be hoping for a better performance – and hopefully for a few of the injured players to be back in action – as they welcome the Bristol Pitbulls to Lee Valley Ice Centre for a Cup game on Sunday 27th October. Faceoff will be at 17:30.