The Lee Valley Lions suffered defeat by the odd goal in 11 on Saturday night, as they went down 5-6 at home to the Basingstoke Buffalo.
Goals from Joe Berry, Tom Hnilica, Alex Clarke, Michael Jacobs and Joe Miller – the 17-year-old scoring his first goal for the club – weren’t enough, as the Lions couldn’t quite recover from a slow start in which they went 1-5 down at the midway point of the game.
Both sides iced 18 skaters for the game; with the Lions starting with James Andrew in net, and the Buffalo handing a start to 18-year-old Ethan Frain between the pipes.
First Period: The game started well for the Lions as they went 1-0 up, Joe Berry (7:03, assisted Tom Hnilica) scoring his seventh goal of the season after a lovely pass across the face of goal from Czech forward Hnilica.
The Buffalo hit back in the 12th minute with a goal from Oscar Evans (11:26, unassisted) to tie the scores, before the Lions hit penalty trouble. The Buffalo went 2-1 up with a powerplay goal through Jack Peacock (14:20, assisted Samuel Compton), before another powerplay allowed the Buffalo to extend their lead to 3-1 as Cameron Buckle (19:38, assisted Warren Jones and Samuel Brooks) put the puck home.
There was to be no more scoring on the period, with the Buffalo narrowly outshooting the Lions 13-11.
Second Period: The middle frame was dominated by the Buffalo in the early stages, as they peppered Lions goaltender James Andrew with shot after shot. He made some great saves to keep the score low, but was eventually beaten in the 26th minute as Samuel Brooks (25:40, assisted Buckle and Jones) made it 4-1 for the Buffalo with a bizarre goal that deceived Andrew.
And the Buffalo didn’t let up there, as they continued to attack and were rewarded with another goal in the 28th minute as Buckle (27:55, assisted Brooks and Jones) grabbed a shorthanded goal on the counter-attack – Andrew made a great save on the initial shot, but could do nothing about the rebound which Buckle tucked home for his second goal of the game.
This fifth goal seemed to jolt the Lions into life, as they started creating more chances towards the end of the second period, and were rewarded with just four seconds to go until the intermission as Hnilica (39:56, assisted Berry) scored his 16th goal of the season, assisted by Berry, as the two forwards once again showed great chemistry. This goal reduced the deficit to 2-5 at the second intermission, the Buffalo having outshot the Lions 22-13 during the period.
Third Period: The Lions then started the third period well, getting the score back to 4-5 in the first ten minutes of the period as Alex Clarke (41:05, assisted Berry and James Joseph) and Michael Jacobs (49:47, assisted Conner Smith and Joseph) both scored powerplay goals to set up a tense final ten minutes.
The Buffalo then extended their lead to 6-4 with a goal from Brooks (51:50, assisted Jones), but the Lions came storming back to cut that lead to 6-5 just a few minutes later as 17-year-old forward Joe Miller (55:51, assisted Dexter Crawford) scored his first goal in a Lions jersey with just over five minutes left in the game.
The Lions then spent the last few minutes of the game throwing shot after shot on the Buffalo net as they looked for an equaliser, even pulling goaltender James Andrew towards the end and replacing him with an extra attacker. But young Buffalo goalie Ethan Frain stood tall in the visitors’ net, and the Buffalo held on to a tense 6-5 victory on the road.
Both goaltenders – Andrew for the Lions and Frain for the Buffalo – were deservedly awarded Man of the Match for their respective teams after strong performances in net.
The Lions now hit the road over the next three weekends, with their next home game not coming until the 9th of March.
They are next in action this Saturday 16th February, as they travel to Kent to take on the Invicta Mustangs. Faceoff at Planet Ice Gillingham will be at 17:30.
*Please note, some stats vary from those on the official game sheet
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 5-6 Basingstoke Buffalo
Period Scores: 1-3/1-2/3-1
Shots: Lee Valley 50-47 Basingstoke (11-13/13-22/26-12)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 14-14 Basingstoke
Scorers: Lee Valley – Joe Berry 1+2, Tom Hnilica 1+1, James Joseph 0+2, Joe Miller 1+0, Alex Clarke 1+0, Michael Jacobs 1+0, Conner Smith 0+1, Dexter Crawford 0+1
Basingstoke – Samuel Brooks 2+2, Warren Jones 0+4, Cameron Buckle 2+1, Jack Peacock 1+0, Oscar Evans 1+0, Samuel Compton 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (59:03 played, 47 shots/6 goals against)
Basingstoke – Ethan Frain (60:00 played, 50 shots/5 goals against)
Man of the Match – James Andrew (Lee Valley), Ethan Frain (Basingstoke)