The Lee Valley Lions played their last home game of 2017 on Saturday, as they welcomed the Cardiff NIHL2 Fire to East London. The home side were still looking for their first win of the season, after narrowly losing out in OT to Invicta seven days earlier.
The Lions were without Ben Duffy, Jordan Turner, Lee Hounslow, Michael Crosse, Robin Young, Robyn Maby and Samuel Awoyemi, but welcomed forward Tom Hurley who made his Lee Valley debut. This gave Lee Valley 15 skaters, with 17-year-old Brett Shepherd starting in net for the second consecutive game. Cardiff brought 12 skaters and also fielded a 17-year-old between the pipes as Lewis Davies got the start.
1st Period: The Lions have started many games slowly this season; and unfortunately for them, the same occurred here as Cardiff went 1-0 up just over three minutes in, captain Ross Wilkinson (3:29, assisted Thomas Stevens and Lewis Smith) scoring on a shot that squeezed past Lions netminder Shepherd and into the net. The home side started to crank up the pressure after this as they tried to get back in the game, drawing two penalties.
The Fire managed to kill a holding minor against Thomas Stevens, but when Lewis Stevens went into the box for tripping, the Lions took advantage with just one second left in the powerplay to tie the game up. Matt Brown (14:25, assisted Chris Fox and Simon Jones) sniped one past Lewis Davies and sent the goalie’s water bottle flying. No more penalties or goals followed in the first period, as it ended 1-1 with the Lions outshooting Cardiff 14-10.
2nd Period: The second period started off badly for the Lions, as they again shipped an early goal. This time Joe Morris (20:24, assisted Elliott Murdoch) shot past Shepherd with just 24 seconds gone in the period to give the Welsh side another lead. As in the first period, the Lions fought back to equalise, with captain Nick Alley (24:39, assisted Ross Sin-Hidge) equalising four minutes later after good work in the build-up from linemate Sin-Hidge. Unlike the first period, this time the Lions pushed on and took the lead, Brown (29:54, assisted Ben Gillingham) putting the hosts 3-2 up just before the halfway point of the game following some industrious play from Ben Gillingham.
And it got better for the Lions just 44 seconds later as Alley (30:38, assisted Sin-Hidge and Matthew Hepburn) also notched up his second goal of the game to put the Lions 4-2 up; this was a well-worked powerplay goal with Fire’s Lewis Stevens in the box for cross checking. The Lions pressed on looking for even more goals – they out-shot Cardiff 17-13 on the period – but couldn’t find a way past Lewis Davies who came up with some big saves. With just 30 seconds left in the period, Cardiff pounced on a defensive lapse by the Lions to get back to 4-3 behind. Lewis Smith (39:30, unassisted) was left alone in front of Lions netminder Shepherd and finished coolly.
3rd Period: The third period was a tight affair in the early stages, as the Lions looked to extend their lead and the Fire tried to equalise. Both young netminders made some great stops and frustrated their opposition, with no goals falling in the first eight minutes of the period. The Fire then managed to tie the game up at four apiece, L. Smith (48:20, assisted Andre Norris and Murdoch) grabbing his second of the evening – again taking advantage of some slack defending.
A scary moment followed in the 50th minute as Lions debutante Tom Hurley was left down in the corner after a hit from Fire captain Ross Wilkinson. Hurley was eventually stretchered off the ice while Wilkinson received a match penalty for checking from behind. This gave the Lions a five minute powerplay but they could not convert; indeed when Simon Geldart and Matt Brown both took minor penalties at the same time, the Lions suddenly found themselves killing a 4-on-3 situation. Another Cardiff penalty meant some 3-on-3 time, before the Lions went back on the powerplay but still could not find the go-ahead goal. As time expired on the third period, the score was tied at 4-4 meaning the Lions would go into overtime for the second Saturday in a row.
Overtime: The 3-on-3 overtime period saw both sides trying to take advantage of the extra space on the ice to create the all-important winning goal. While the Lions had a single shot at net, Cardiff managed six; and the last of those shots proved to be the game winner as Elliott Murdoch (62:52, assisted Norris) broke across the blueline and sniped a perfectly placed shot past Shepherd to seal the win for the Fire.
For the second Saturday in succession, the Lions had lost in overtime – gaining a point for their troubles but still awaiting their first win of the season. Matthew Hepburn took the man of the match award for the home side after a tireless performance, while Cardiff netminder Lewis Davies took the award for his side.
*Please note, some stats vary from those on the official game sheet
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 4-5 Cardiff Fire (OT)
Period Scores: 1-1/3-2/0-1/0-1
Shots: Lee Valley 49-47 Cardiff (14-10/17-13/17-18/1-6)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 8-39 Cardiff
Scorers: Lee Valley – Matt Brown (2+0), Nick Alley (2+0), Ross Sin-Hidge (0+2), Matthew Hepburn (0+1), Chris Fox (0+1), Ben Gillingham (0+1), Simon Jones (0+1)
Cardiff – Lewis Smith (2+1), Elliott Murdoch (1+2), Andre Norris (0+2), Joe Morris (1+0), Ross Wilkinson (1+0), Thomas Stevens (0+1)
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – Brett Shepherd (62:52 played, 47 shots/5 goals against)
Cardiff – Lewis Davies (62:52 played, 49 shots/4 goals against)
Man of the Match – Matthew Hepburn (Lee Valley), Lewis Davies (Cardiff)