The Lee Valley Lions took their first win of the season on Sunday, as they won away from home against a Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats side directly above them in the league table. It was also the East London side’s first win in 21 months.
Swindon had taken a surprise victory over Bristol the previous day, so the Lions knew they would have to be at their best in order to take their first victory of what has been a tough season.
The Lions were able to ice a strong side for the game, with 18 skaters making the trip to Swindon – allowing the Lions to ice four forward lines and three lines of defence – and Steve Grout starting in net.
First Period: The Lions got off to a perfect start, scoring a powerplay goal in the sixth minute to go 1-0 up; Joe Berry (goal timed 5:57) putting the puck in the net with a neat finish after a great assist from Ben Gillingham.
After a few more powerplay chances that they couldn’t convert, the Lions then went 2-0 up in the 11th minute as Czech forward Tom Hnilica (10:11) scored his 13th goal of the season, with assists coming from Berry and Michael Jacobs.
There were to be no more goals in the first period, with the Lions taking a 2-0 lead into the break, having outshot the hosts 14-6.
Second Period: There was just the one goal scored in the middle frame – and again it was the Lions who got it despite being outshot 16-11 in the period. Hnilica (33:29) scored his second goal of the night and 14th of the season, with assists coming from Berry and captain Simon Jones. This put the Lions 3-0 up, a lead they would take into the second break, thanks in no small part to some top saves by Grout in net.
Third Period: The visitors then started the final period perfectly, going 4-0 up in the 43rd minute as Alex Clarke (42:04) scored his first goal in a Lions jersey, with assists coming from Gillingham and Richard Hodge.
And just 26 seconds later, the Lions completed the scoring for the night as Joshua Irish (42:30) netted to put the visitors 5-0 up, with the assist coming from Oliver Glover.
Things got tense in the latter stages of the game, with Lions’ Gus Zimmerman sitting a 2+10 penalty for roughing and goalscorer Alex Clarke being tossed from the game for high sticking; but the Lions defence held firm, as did Grout in the Lee Valley net, to hold on to the 5-0 win when the final buzzer sounded.
Man of the Match for the Lions was Grout, who made 37 saves and didn’t concede a single goal as he backstopped his team to victory.
The win puts the Lions just one point behind Swindon in the league table – with the Wildcats visiting Lee Valley Ice Centre this coming Saturday 2nd February (faceoff 17:30) for a return game.
If the Lions win, they will move off the foot of the table at the expense of Swindon – so it is sure to be an intense game.
Final Score: Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats 0-5 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 0-2/0-1/0-2
Shots: Swindon 37-35 Lee Valley (6-14/16-11/15-10)
Penalty Minutes: Swindon 12-47 Lee Valley Lions
Scorers: Lee Valley – Joe Berry 1+2, Tom Hnilica 2+0, Ben Gillingham 0+2, Alex Clarke 1+0, Joshua Irish 1+0, Simon Jones 0+1, Richard Hodge 0+1, Michael Jacobs 0+1, Oliver Glover 0+1
Goaltenders: Swindon – Tyler Perre (42:30 played, 28 shots/5 goal against); Kyle Landells (17:30 played, 7 shots/0 goals against)
Lee Valley – Steve Grout (60:00 played, 37 shots/0 goals against)
Man of the Match – Steve Grout (Lee Valley)