After losing a 15-goal thriller away to Haringey, followed by back to back home defeats, the Lions travelled outside London for the first time this season as they looked to take their first victory of the campaign. Their opponents on the south coast were the Solent Devils, who played in NIHL South 1 last season, so it was sure to be a difficult test.
The Lions welcomed back Michael Crosse, but were missing Ben Duffy, Ben Gillingham, Oliver Glover, Lee Hounslow and Robyn Maby. That gave Lee Valley 13 skaters plus netminding duo James Andrew and Brett Shepherd. The Devils, meanwhile, iced 14 skaters and two netminders. Twelve of the sixteen players on the Solent side were playing in NIHL South 1 last season.
1st Period: Lee Valley got off to a slow start in the game, with the Devils putting early pressure on James Andrew in the Lions net. The first goal of the game came after six and a half minutes, Sam Rudkin (6:25, assisted Richard Facey and Alex Murray) getting on the scoresheet. After Lions defenceman Daniel Tamasauskas took a 2+10 for checking from behind, Solent required just five seconds on the resultant powerplay to double their advantage, former Haringey import Drew Campbell (8:44, assisted Facey and Murray) making it 2-0. The hosts were not done there, and scored three goals within 99 seconds to increase their lead to 5-0: Murray (10:23, assisted Daniel Shier), Mark Pitts (11:03, assisted Alexander Trendall and Alexander Cole) and Rudkin (12:02, assisted Sam Boothroyd) doing the damage as the Lions repeatedly lost track of Solent players in their own zone. After a slashing call on Lions captain Nick Alley, Solent completed the half dozen as Facey (17:03, assisted Daniel Crossley and Campbell) made it 6-0 on the powerplay.
There was finally something to cheer for the Lions with just over a minute remaining in the first period, Matthew Hepburn (18:45, assisted Nick Alley) getting the Lions on the board following some great work behind the Solent net and nice interplay with Simon Geldart & Alley. And just 14 seconds later, Nick Alley (18:59, unassisted) broke down the left hand side and roofed a wrist shot past Christian Cole, smashing the Solent netminder’s bottle. The remaining 1:01 of the period passed without incident, with the Devils leading 6-2 at the break
2nd Period: The second period started off well for the Lions, as they made life difficult for the hosts by showing more aggression and making some big hits. Solent captain Alexander Cole took exception to a hit from Lions forward Jordan Turner, taking 2+2+10 for roughing as he went after the Lee Valley youngster. Turner was assessed 2 minutes for cross checking on the play. The Lions were not able to use the resultant powerplay and, following a slashing call on Chris Fox, found themselves on the penalty kill. The seventh Solent goal soon followed, Campbell (27:32, assisted Facey and Rhys McCormick) getting his second powerplay tally of the evening. And they restored their six goal advantage shortly after, Facey (29:16, assisted Campbell) also bagging his second goal of the evening and making the score 8-2.
The Lions swapped goaltenders after this, with 17 year old Brett Shepherd relieving James Andrew for his debut. And the young netminder, on a two-way deal with South 1 side Streatham, put in a good performance in the second half of the game as he foiled several Solent attacks. However he could not prevent Solent from reaching double figures before the second period was done; Rudkin (32:22, unassisted) completed his hat-trick with a shorthanded goal as Devils defenceman Ben Lock was in the box for elbowing, and Pitts (35:22, assisted Trendall and Crossley) made it 10-2, which would be the score heading into the second intermission.
3rd Period: The Devils increased their lead to 11-2 just over two minutes into the third period, Facey (42:02, assisted McCormick and Campbell) completing his own hat-trick. The Lions kept playing hard, not letting their heads drop and playing aggressive hockey, and were awarded with two quickfire goals; captain Alley (46:28, assisted Geldart) bagging his second of the game and Ross Sin-Hidge (48:57, assisted Chris Fox and Alley) scoring a well-worked powerplay marker with Facey in the box for hooking.
The visitors continued to work hard in search for more goals; however as the game went on, the short-benched Lions started to tire and ran into penalty trouble. Solent made it 12-4 on one of those penalties, player-coach Murray (51:24, assisted Facey and Campbell) netting with Simon Jones in the box on a hooking call. And the Devils put the icing on the cake just over five minutes from time, Christopher Hocquigny (54:15, assisted Murray and Alexander Cole) bagging the hosts’ 13th goal. Solent swapped netminders with a few minutes left, giving three and a half minutes of game time to backup goalie Toby Hall, but a tired Lions were unable to score any more, with the game ending at 13-4.
It was another difficult game for a Lions side that are still low on numbers, against an opponent with a lot of higher division experience. After a slow start, the Lions were able to trouble the hosts with some aggressive ice hockey, but were unable to keep it up for the whole game so suffered a tough defeat in the end. Lions captain Nick Alley took the Man of the Match award after having a hand in all four goals for his side, while Sam Rudkin took home the award for Solent.
Final Score: Solent Devils 13-4 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 6-2/4-0/3-2
Shots: Solent 67-17 Lee Valley (23-8/22-4/22-5)
Penalty Minutes: Solent 22-32 Lee Valley
Scorers: Solent – Richard Facey (3+4), Drew Campbell (2+4), Alex Murray (2+3), Sam Rudkin (3+0), Mark Pitts (2+0), Alexander Cole (0+2), Alexander Trendall (0+2), William Crossley (0+2), Rhys McCormick (0+2), Christopher Hocquigny (1+0), Sam Boothroyd (0+1), Daniel Shier (0+1)
Lee Valley – Nick Alley (2+2), Matthew Hepburn (1+0), Ross Sin-Hidge (1+0), Simon Geldart (0+1), Chris Fox (0+1)
Goaltenders: Solent – Christian Cole (56:24 played, 15 shots/4 goals against), Toby Hall (3:36 played, 2 shots/0 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (29:24 played, 30 shots/8 goals against), Brett Shepherd (30:36 played, 37 shots/5 goals against)
Man of the Match – Nick Alley (Lee Valley), Sam Rudkin (Solent)
The Lions’ next game is away to the Cardiff Fire on Saturday 21st October, followed by a home game against the Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday 22nd October.
Face off at Lee Valley is at 5:30pm.