After six matches of this season’s NIHL South 2 (Wilkinson) campaign, the Lee Valley Lions were still looking for their first win as they welcomed the Solent Devils to the Den. The corresponding fixture in Gosport last month was won 13-4 by a Devils side that played the last five seasons in NIHL South 1 before moving down in the summer, so the Lions could expect yet another tough game in what has been a difficult season so far.
The Lions welcomed back Samuel Awoyemi and Brett Shepherd, the latter making his first senior start between the pipes in this game after playing 30 minutes in the away fixture against the same opponents. Lee Valley were missing injured trio Ben Duffy, Michael Crosse and Jordan Turner, as well as Ben Gillingham, Lee Hounslow and Robyn Maby, making a total of 13 skaters plus netminding duo Shepherd and James Andrew. Solent brought 14 skaters to Lee Valley as well as netminders Christian Cole and Aaron Taylor.
1st Period: One of Lee Valley’s issues this season has been starting games slowly, and this reared its ugly head again as Drew Campbell (2:56, assisted Alex Murray and William Crossley) put Solent ahead inside the first three minutes with Lions captain Nick Alley sitting two minutes for kneeing. Less than two minutes later, the Devils doubled their advantage with Rhys McCormick (4:39, assisted Daniel Shier) finishing past Shepherd in the Lee Valley net. The next ten minutes or so saw the Lions defending somewhat better, but unable to exert much sustained pressure on Taylor in the Solent net.
The Devils then made the Lions pay for a defensive breakdown as Richard Facey (13:19, assisted Alexander Cole) batted down a wayward lofted pass out of the Lee Valley zone and raced in on the breakaway to finish past Shepherd. And two more goals were to follow in the period as the Devils started to show their superior quality; first Christopher Hocquigny (17:47, assisted Mark Pitts) scored past Shepherd from a tight angle, and then McCormick (19:28, assisted Campbell and Facey) grabbed his second of the night with just 32 seconds left in the period. As the buzzer sounded, the Devils were leading 5-0 and had put 25 shots on young Shepherd, compared to the six that the Lions managed at the other end.
2nd Period: Solent captain Alex Cole had taken a holding penalty right on the buzzer at the end of period one, so the Lions started the second period on the powerplay. The home side were not able to capitalise on this, however, as the Devils smartly killed the penalty. A few minutes later saw the Lions scoring their first goal of the game, bringing the scoreline back to 5-1; Matthew Hamilton (24:21, assisted Chris Fox) ghosted into the Devils zone to follow up on a rebound after Chris Fox had shot, and the defenceman managed to fire the puck past Taylor in the Solent net.
The following six minutes then saw Shepherd making several fantastic saves in the Lions net to prevent Solent from grabbing a goal, while the Lions once again struggled to create concrete chances at the other end of the ice. The 31st minute saw Solent’s Daniel Shier sit two for tripping, but this was cancelled but 44 seconds later as Robin Young was called for holding. No goals came from either of these penalties, and it looked like possibly being a goalless period for Solent until Facey (37:14, assisted Murray) scored his second of the night with 2:46 left in the period. The second period ended with the Devils 6-1 up, and again dominating the shot count: they put 27 on Shepherd, while the Lions could only manage seven on Taylor.
3rd Period: The final period started off with the Devils yet again pressuring Shepherd in the Lions net, but the 17 year old continued to frustrate them, flashing the leather to deny them on several occasions. However in the 45th minute, Lions forward Matt Brown was called for tripping, and the Devils made it 7-1 on the resultant powerplay, Alexander Trendall (45:09, assisted A. Cole) breaking the Lions’ resistance. The next few minutes saw Solent show some poor discipline, with first Pitts and then A. Cole sitting two minutes each for holding. This gave the Lions over a minute of 5-on-3 powerplay time, but they were unable to convert – and indeed not long after Pitts had left the box to make it 5-on-4, Solent scored a shorthanded goal as Kieran Annis (51:16, assisted Pitts and Facey) made it 8-1.
A four minute powerplay would follow for the Lions not long after, as Alexander Trendall received a 2+2+10 for butt-ending. The Lions bagged their second goal of the evening on this man advantage, Fox (53:18, assisted Oliver Glover and Robin Young) firing past Taylor to bring the game back to 2-8. Yet things went sour again for the home side soon after, as both Facey (54:13, assisted Campbell) and Murray (54:29, unassisted) scored shorthanded goals 16 seconds apart to put the Devils 10-2 up. And the Devils put two more past a tired Lions side in the last 1:26 of the game, Hocquigny (58:34, assisted Facey and A. Cole) completing his brace and Facey (59:41, assisted Shier) getting his fourth of the night, as the Devils won the game with a final score of 12-2.
It was yet another tough game for the Lions against a strong team, as the more experienced Devils overwhelmed the East London side and ran out deserved winners. As in many Lions games this season, one positive to take from the game was between the pipes; while it is usually James Andrew’s heroics keeping Lee Valley in games, this time it was 17 year old Brett Shepherd who made 60 saves on his first senior start and kept the scoreline from being even higher. Opposite number Aaron Taylor faced 22 shots in total. The Man of the Match award for the Lions went to Chris Fox, who had 1+1 on the night, while Solent’s Rhys McCormick took home the award for his side.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 2-12 Solent Devils
Period Scores: 0-5/1-1/1-6
Shots: Lee Valley 22-72 Solent (6-25/7-27/9-20)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley 6-22 Solent
Scorers: Lee Valley – Chris Fox (1+1), Matthew Hamilton (1+0), Oliver Glover (0+1), Robin Young (0+1)
Solent – Richard Facey (4+3), Drew Campbell (1+2), Alex Murray (1+2), Alexander Cole (0+3), Rhys McCormick (2+0), Christopher Hocquigny (2+0), Mark Pitts (0+2), Daniel Shier (0+2), Alexander Trendall (1+0), Kieran Annis (1+0), William Crossley (0+1)
Goaltenders: Solent – Aaron Taylor (60:00 played, 22 shots/2 goals against)
Lee Valley – Brett Shepherd (60:00 played, 72 shots/12 goals against)
Man of the Match – Chris Fox (Lee Valley), Rhys McCormick (Solent)
The Lions’ next game is away to the Slough Jets on Saturday 11th November, followed by a home game the very next day against the Haringey Huskies on Sunday 12th November.
Face off in Berkshire is at 6:00pm, whilst face at Lea Bridge Road is at 5:30pm.