Lee Valley Lions caused the shock of the season in NIHL2 as league champions and then-unbeaten Oxford City Stars were humbled at the Den, giving the Lions their first victory in over a month (a 5-4 win against Wightlink).
First Period: Oxford, as expected, started the faster of the two sides. Playing with speed and precision they showed why they have been the dominant team since dropping from Division 1 a couple of years ago. However, there were no clear-cut chances, Lee Valley began to work their way back into the game and it was the Lions who struck first. The on-form Romanas Fedotovas set up by his line-mates James Hepburn and Richard Hodge (3:25), this rattled the Stars and they created more chances, only to come up against an in-form Aaron Mallet. Lee Valley weren’t being pushed over though, and the hosts got another goal at 9:14 when Fedotovas (assist Hatfull) went through the Stars’ defence to round Ricky Young. The visitors upped the physical side of their game and both sides began to take penalties, Hepburn sitting for clipping and Fedotovas then going for tripping, then interference. Neither side could add to the scoreboard and it ended 2-0.
Second Period: A much closer affair, both sides found it difficult to break the other down. Oxford going close a few times, there was a brief moment of worry for the Lions when goalie Mallet had an Oxford forward accidentally fall on his arm, causing a short delay but he was able to carry on. Oxford got their breakthrough shortly after when Nick Oliver finished off one of the visitors’ many well-cycled plays (29:24, assist Whillock) to bring it back to 2-1. The Stars were now playing with their tails up but the Lions held firm and were able to see the period out without any further incident. Ending 2-1, Lions.
Third Period: With the Lions now under pressure from a resurgent Oxford, the last thing they needed was to take penalties to increase that pressure. Unfortunately, Graham Lewis (interference) and Jack Ball (holding) both took separate spells in the sin bin. Lee Valley were able to hold firm though and got another go-ahead goal when Richard Hodge’s shot (47:19 unassisted) from the blue line was deflected straight through Ricky Young’s legs. It wasn’t all over though, and from thereon in the Stars began to up the ante, keeping the pressure on the Lions’ goal. With the clock ticking down, they finally got their goal. After a scramble in front of net, the puck trickled out in front to a waiting Joe Oliver (57:03, assist Broughton), who blasted the shot home to the delight of the visiting fans. Cue now an incredibly tense last few minutes where Oxford pummelled Mallet, but the hosts were able to weather the storm. And as the clock hit zero, the Lions rushed to the ice as though they’d won the league, bringing an end to a fantastic game and a much-deserved Lions win. Having thrown a few games away in the last period recently, it was refreshing to see Lee Valley hold their nerve and close out a match right to the end. And what a way to do it.
Lions 3-2 Oxford.
A post match interview with Lions’ Head Coach, Gary Dodds, can be found HERE, courtesy of OxfordCityStarsTV (© all rights reserved).
The Lions travel to Basingstoke Buffalo next week, hoping to keep this run going. Our next home game is at home to Cardiff Devils on the 7th of December.
Period Scores: 2-0/0-1/1-1
Shots on Goal: 36 on Mallet (LV) 16 on Young (OXC)
Penalties in Minutes: Lee Valley 14-20 Oxford
Scorers: Lee Valley – Romanas Fedotovas (2+0), Richard Hodge (1+1), James Hepburn & James Hatfull (0+1). Oxford – Nick Oliver & Joe Oliver (1+0), Michael Whillock & Sam Broughton (0+1)
Man of the Match: Lee Valley – Max Gerstein, Oxford – Andy Cox