The Lee Valley Lions played their first match of 2019 on Saturday, welcoming the Cardiff Fire to the Den.
The Lions were able to field their largest roster of the season to date, with 18 skaters taking to the ice as well as netminders James Andrew (starting) and Steve Grout (backing up). Making his debut for the Lions was Latvian defenceman Elvis Timofejevs – he was playing in the absence of Lee Valley’s top scorer, Czech forward Tom Hnilica. Cardiff brought 19 skaters of their own, along with starting goalie James Whiting and backup Lewis Davies.
First Period – The first period was cagey in the opening stages, with the Fire killing off an early too-many-men bench penalty and both Dexter Crawford (Lions) and Jackson Price (Fire) also sitting two minutes each. It took until the tenth minute for the first goal to be scored, and it came from the visitors as Samual Bryant (9:11, assisted Jackson Price and Tamas Elias) put Cardiff 1-0 up.
The Lions hit back in the 18th minute to level the scores up at 1-1, as Gus Zimmerman (17:32, assisted Ben Gillingham and Joe Berry) grabbed his third goal of the season. But the Fire didn’t take long to get back in front, scoring their second of the night to go 2-1 up just 18 seconds later through Jordan Powell (17:50, assisted Stephen Deacon). There was to be no further scoring in the first period, with the Fire leading 2-1 at the break and outshooting the Lions 16-8.
Second Period – Both sides had numerous chances in the early stages of the second period, but both James’ Andrew and Whiting in the respective nets were equal to everything that was thrown their way – and indeed it took until the 34th minute of the game for another goal to fall. After the Lions had wasted a powerplay opportunity earlier in the period, the Fire made it 3-1 as Cameron Basnett (33:36, assisted Ross Wilkinson) took advantage of a defensive breakdown and shot the puck past Andrew.
Things soon got worse for the Lions too; after failing to convert another powerplay, they again conceded a goal as Powell (36:45, assisted Josh Haslam and Deacon) made it 4-1 to the visitors in the 37th minute. And to cap off a nightmare four minutes for the hosts, they conceded a fifth goal shortly afterwards when former Lions forward Chris Fox (37:05, assisted Basnett and Elliott Murdoch) made it 5-1.
Tensions then boiled over at the end of the period, with both sides involved in some pushing and shoving following the buzzer. Joe Berry (Lions) and Ross Wilkinson (Fire) both received 2+10 for their troubles, while Jake Wadge (Lions) and Stephen Deacon (Fire) received two minutes each.
Third Period – Cardiff’s three late goals in the second period seemed to take the wind out of the Lions’ sails going into the final frame, as they were unable to get the puck past Cardiff netminder Whiting despite creating several chances. And at the other end, they conceded two goals within a timespan of 55 seconds to really put the game to bed; Phil Manny (51:04) made it 6-1 before Elias (51:59) scored a shorthanded goal with Tom Smith in the box to put the visitors into an unassailable 7-1 lead.
Despite four powerplay opportunities in the third period, the Lions were not able to score again; and the Fire capped off the scoring in the penultimate minute of the game as Iwan Davies (58:53, assisted Morgan Evans and Lewis Stevens) made it 8-1, which would be the final score as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
After a very even first 34 minutes, the Lions came away with a disappointing result after conceding three soft goals towards the end of the second period and never finding their way back into the game after that. They will nonetheless take heart from the opening stages of the game where they played good hockey and created a lot of chances.
Ben Gillingham was awarded Man of the Match for the Lions after a tireless performance which included an assist on the lone goal, while Fire netminder James Whiting took home the award for the visitors.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 1-8 Cardiff Fire
Period Scores: 1-2/0-3/0-3
Shots: Lee Valley 29-48 Cardiff (8-16/8-15/13-17)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 18-30 Cardiff
Scorers: Lee Valley – Gus Zimmerman 1+0, Ben Gillingham 0+1, Joe Berry 0+1
Cardiff – Jordan Powell 2+0, Cameron Basnett 1+1, Tamas Elias 1+1, Stephen Deacon 0+2, Phil Manny 1+0, Samual Bryant 1+0, Iwan Davies 1+0, Chris Fox 1+0, Elliott Murdoch 0+1, Lewis Stevens 0+1, Ross Wilkinson 0+1, Morgan Evans 0+1, Jackson Price 0+1, Josh Haslam 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 48 shots/8 goals against)
Cardiff – James Whiting (60:00 played, 29 shots/1 goal against)
Man of the Match – Ben Gillingham (Lee Valley), James Whiting (Cardiff)
The Lee Valley Lions are next in action on Sunday 13th January in an away game, as they travel to Oxford to take on reigning league champions the Oxford City Stars. Faceoff will be at 18:15.