The Lee Valley Lions went down 9-2 in Guildford to the Phoenix on Sunday, in their penultimate road game of the season.
Goals from Conner Smith and Richard Hodge weren’t enough for the Lions, with Guildford taking a win that locked them into a fifth place finish in NIHL South Division 2 this season.
The Lions were able to welcome back several players who had missed the previous few games; however top scorer Tom Hnilica was absent for the East London side.
And the hosts dominated proceedings in the first period, peppering Lions netminder James Andrew with 26 shots in the opening frame, while the Lions could only manage five.
However only one of those 26 Guildford shots were able to find a way through Andrew’s defences, as Luke Tull scored in the tenth minute to put the Phoenix 1-0 up.
For the remaining ten minutes of the period, both Andrew and the Lions defence held firm to go into the first intermission with a one goal deficit.
The Phoenix came out strong at the start of the second period, racing into a 3-0 lead just two minutes in thanks to goals from Bailey Wootton and Andrew Hemmings.
But the Lions roared back in the 26th minute to cut the deficit to 3-1, as Conner Smith (25:30) scored his fourth goal of the season with assists from Simon Jones and Dexter Crawford.
17-year-old Smith recently played two games for the Streatham Redhawks in the league above, and the confidence that those appearances must have given him was on full display as he finished past Guildford netminder Sam Calder.
Guildford would go on to score just one more goal in the second period, as Josh Abbott netted in the 37th minute, with the Phoenix taking a 4-1 lead into the final frame. Lions netminder Andrew was once again strong in the second period, turning away 23 shots to keep his side in the game.
The Phoenix were then able to extend their lead to 5-1 early in the final period as Hemmings scored his second of the night, but the Lions then bounced back again as Richard Hodge (44:38) scored his fourth goal of the season to narrow Guildford’s lead to 5-2. The assist on Hodge’s goal came from Alex Clarke.
As the final period wore on, the Phoenix were able to demonstrate why they will finish the season ten places above the Lions, as they added four more goals through Hemmings (completing his hat-trick), Abbott, Tull, and Jack Woodstock to take a 9-2 win when the final buzzer sounded.
Man of the Match for the Lions was goaltender Andrew, who had an extremely busy night between the pipes facing 77 shots and making 68 saves.
The Lions are next in action on Sunday 24th March, as they take on the Romford Raiders’ NIHL2 team. It will be the Lions’ final home game of the season, with faceoff at Lee Valley Ice Centre scheduled for 17:30.
Final Score: Guildford Phoenix 9-2 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 1-0/3-1/5-1
Shots: Guildford 77-19 Lee Valley (26-5/26-8/25-6)
Penalty Minutes: Guildford 8-30 Lee Valley
Scorers: Guildford – Andrew Hemmings 3+3, Josh Abbott 2+2, Jared Lane 0+4, Bailey Wootton 1+2, Luke Tull 2+0, Jack Woodstock 1+0, Monty Gailer 0+1, Matthew Tull 0+1, Harry Hatfield 0+1, Jacob Rondeau-Smith 0+1, Joe Stephenson 0+1
Lee Valley – Conner Smith 1+0, Richard Hodge 1+0, Simon Jones 0+1, Dexter Crawford 0+1, Alex Clarke 0+1
Goaltenders: Guildford – Sam Calder (60:00 played, 19 shots/2 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 77 shots/9 goals against)
Man of the Match – James Andrew (Lee Valley)