Lee Valley endured another close game with Swindon Wildcats and couldn’t quite see the game out. Goals from Ryan Payne, Jack Ball and James Hepburn gave the Lions the advantage before the young Wildcats, led by ex EPL stalwart Jan Melichar pulled the game back. New signings Kevin Lake and Matthew Drake made their débuts and both picked up assists.
First Period: Lee Valley were caught off guard by the speed of the young Wildcats players, and found themselves under pressure early with Aaron Mallet forced into action early. As the period wore on, Lee Valley worked their way back into the game with the short benched Wildcats beginning to tire, Ryan Payne (17:59, assists Fedotovas and Hodge) let a shot go from the blue line that trickled through Kevin McGurk’s legs. Both sides continued to create chances but the period ended 1-0 to the Lions.
Second Period: The Lions came out firing but couldn’t convert. After a series of shots, with McGurk sprawled Romanas Fedotovas and everyone else in the rink thought he had scored but his shot pinged off the post. With the hosts continuing to press, they found themselves caught too deep in the Swindon end and Michael Stratford (25:33, assist Sullivan) was sent on a breakaway and rounded Mallet to tie the game. From there the Lions kicked into gear, first Jack Ball (30:00, assist Yufit) let a slap-shot go that flew in, then James Hepburn (35:37, assists Hatfull and Drake) bundled the puck in. Although Stratford (35:37, assists Johnson and Prince) pulled one back, Lee Valley closed out the period when débutante Kevin Lake sent the puck straight to Gennadi Yufit (39:36, assists Lake and Cave) who tipped in brilliantly to put the Lions 4-2 up.
Third Period: Both sides knew that the next goal was pivotal to the outcome of the match. Swindon answered that question first when Shannon Taylor (40:45, assists Rutkis and Prince) roofed the puck from the top of the circle. Shortly after the Wildcats were level when Toms Rutkis (43:27, assist Coakley) also hit the top corner past Mallet. The Lions were quick to respond, while Rutkis sat in the box for slashing, Lee Valley set up in the Swindon zone and went ahead again through James Hatfull (44:40, assists Fedotovas and Hodge) whose shot trickled through McGurk’s legs. Both sides went back and forth but the advantage went to Swindon when James Hepburn was penalised for cross checking, only eighteen seconds later and the visitors had tied the match again. Taylor (55:45, assists Melichar and Sullivan) scoring his second of the night, the game ended with the Lions trying to get the win but Swindon defended doggedly to see out the draw.
The draw is Lee Valley’s first point in three games. The Lions will be hoping to improve on the result when they travel to League Champions, Oxford next Sunday, face off at 6:15 pm.
Period Scores: 1-0/3-2/1-3
Shots on Goal: 37 on Mallet (LV), 37 on McGurk (SWN)
Penalties in Minutes: Lee Valley 8-20 Swindon
Scorers: Lee Valley – James Hatfull & Gennadi Yufit (1+1), Kevin Lake & Richard Hodge (0+2), James Hepburn, Ryan Payne & Jack ball (1+0), Ashlee Cave & Matthew Drake (0+1)
Swindon – Shannon Taylor & Michael Stratford (2+0), Toms Rutkis
Man of the Match: Ryan Payne (LV), Michael Stratford (SWN)