Six days after opening day defeat to the Chelmsford Chieftains, the Lions were back in action on Saturday as they played their first home game of the season. Visiting the Den were the Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms.
The Lions handed first appearances of the season to Joe Miller, Nicky Brathwaite and Richard Hodge; while Oliver Glover and Tom Hnilica were unavailable to play and James Joseph took up coaching duties from the bench. This gave the Lions 12 skaters plus netminders James Andrew – who started in net – and Steve Grout.
The Phantoms brought along 17 skaters – including former Lions captain Nick Alley – as well as starting netminder Dan Lane and backup Jack Peacock.
1st Period: It didn’t take long for the aforementioned ex-Lions captain to make an impression against his former team-mates, as Nick Alley (0:57, assisted Shaun Yardley) put in the first goal of the contest within a minute of the opening faceoff. Things would get worse for the home side in the opening ten minutes of the game, as the Phantoms showed a lot of speed and skill to bag three more goals. Firstly it was Conor Pollard (3:58, assisted Yardley and Alley) who doubled the score to 2-0, before Yardley (7:11, assisted Alley) and Jordan Liddell (9:27, assisted Jack Sansby and Samuel Dean) extended the lead to 4-0.
In what was a first period without any penalties, things calmed down a bit after the fourth goal as the Lions tried to create some offensive chances, but the next goal would come from the visitors as Pollard (15:49, assisted Alley and Sam Barlow) made it 5-0. The half dozen was then complete in the 17th minute with Jake Samal (16:30, assisted Ross Clarke and Callum Worthington-Evans) extending the score to 6-0.
The Lions did have something to shout about just 14 seconds later though, as Joe Berry (16:44, unassisted) intercepted the puck and hared down the ice to score past Dan Lane on the breakaway and get the score back to 1-6. That was to be the last goal of the first period, with the Phantoms outshooting the home side 24-6 in the opening frame.
2nd Period: The Lions were once again caught cold at the start of the second period; and again it was Alley (20:19, assisted Yardley and Pollard) who punished them with an early goal just 19 seconds in. The Lions then did a good job of keeping Peterborough’s forwards quiet in the next passage of play, with netminder James Andrew making some impressive saves and the defencemen also showing great commitment to block some dangerous shots.
However, the defensive barricade couldn’t last forever; and it was Pollard (27:53, assisted Yardley and Alley) who completed his hat-trick and made it 8-1 to the visitors – with Peterborough’s top line once again doing the damage, their slick passing just proving too much for a tired Lions defence. The Lions then swapped netminders in the 29th minute, with Steve Grout coming into net in relief of James Andrew; but just under two minutes later Grout was already picking the puck out of the net after Sansby (30:53, unassisted) scored a bizarre unassisted goal.
Two more goals followed in the second period – which once again passed without any penalty minutes being called – as Pollard (32:05, assisted Yardley) put the Phantoms into double figures before Alley (36:40, assisted Yardley and Pollard) completed his own hat-trick to extend the score to 11-1. There were to be no more goals in the middle frame, with the Phantoms outshooting the Lions 29-2 in the period – numbers that reflected their dominance on the night.
3rd Period: The Lions went into the 3rd period trying to limit the damage and not concede too many more; but the Phantoms were relentless in their pursuit of more goals. It took until the 46th minute, when Peterborough used their first powerplay of the game – Lions forward Jordan Sullivan was sitting two minutes for a late hit – to good effect, as Craig Ellis (45:41, assisted Barlow and Yardley) made it 12-1.
The Phantoms then scored a quickfire double to extend the score again to 14-1; first Pollard (46:33, assisted Ellis) got his fifth of the night before Alley (47:35, assisted Pollard and Ellis) got his fourth. However despite all the goals being scored, the Lions were still trying their best to keep the score down and were still playing hard – with Jack Ball in particular making several gutsy plays, sacrificing his body to block shots or intercept loose pucks despite the high scoreline.
Nonetheless, the Lions continued to tire as the game went on, with the short bench becoming more and more evident as time went by. The Phantoms completed their scoring between the 54th and 58th minutes with a trio of goals; Dean (53:19, assisted Sansby and Robert McDonald), Hunter (54:13, assisted Sansby and Dean) and Dean (57:04, assisted Bradley Wright and Sansby) doing the late damage.
There was still something for the Lions fans to cheer late on however, with Richard Hodge (57:56, assisted Berry and James O’Brien) – playing his first game for the Lions since the summer of 2014 – racing clear to bury past Phantoms netminder Jack Peacock after nice buildup play from Joe Berry and James O’Brien. There was also a scrap in the dying stages of the game, as former team-mates Alley and Berry dropped them and sat 2+2 each for fighting.
The final buzzer sounded with the Lions once again going down to a heavy defeat against well-drilled opponents. Phantoms captain Conor Pollard was awarded Man of the Match for scoring 5+3=8 points on the night, while Michael Jacobs received the same award for the Lions after a tireless performance up front.
The Lions will be hoping that, when the likes of Glover and Joseph come back into the team and Hnilica makes his debut, things will start to look up for them. The next game is away at the Slough Jets in two weeks (Saturday 29th September). Faceoff in Slough will be at 17:45.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 2-17 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Period Scores: 1-6/0-5/1-6
Shots: Lee Valley Lions 16-82 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms (6-24/2-29/8-29)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 10-8 Peterborough NIHL2 Phantoms
Scorers: Lee Valley – Joe Berry 1+1, Richard Hodge 1+0, James O’Brien 0+1
Peterborough – Conor Pollard 5+3, Nick Alley 4+4, Shaun Yardley 1+7, Jack Sansby 1+4, Samuel Dean 2+2, Craig Ellis 1+2, Sam Barlow 0+2, Jordan Liddell 1+0, Connor Hunter 1+0, Jake Samal 1+0, Callum Worthington-Evans o+1, Robert McDonald 0+1, Bradley Wright 0+1, Ross Clarke 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (28:36 played, 38 shots/8 goals against); Steve Grout (31:24 played, 44 shots/9 goals against)
Peterborough – Dan Lane (32:05 played, 6 shots/1 goal against); Jack Peacock (27:55 played, 10 shots/1 goal against)
Man of the Match – Michael Jacobs (Lee Valley), Conor Pollard (Peterborough)