The Lions wrapped up the calendar year 2018 last weekend with two tough home games, welcoming reigning playoff champions Solent to the Den on Saturday before current league leaders Chelmsford visited on Sunday.
Saturday vs Solent
The Lions were able to ice 15 skaters for the visit of the Devils, with Steve Grout starting in goal and James Andrew backing up. New signing Alex Clarke made his debut in a Lions jersey. Solent also brought 15 skaters as well as netminder Christian Cole.
First Period – For the very first time this season, the Lions took the lead in a game; Oliver Glover (2:03, assisted Conner Smith and Tom Hnilica) scoring his first goal of the season in the third minute to stun the Devils. And it took the Devils a long time to get over that shock and get back into the match, as they did not level the score until the 12th minute as Alex Murray grabbed an equaliser.
As the period wore on, the Devils started to exert their dominance, and they were able to score three more times before the period was over as Elliot Lewis, Ben Lock and Murray made it 4-1 going into the first break. This was despite numerous chances for the Lions as Richard Hodge, Jake Wadge and newcomer Alex Clarke all coming close to scoring. The Lions indeed out-shot the Devils 17-16 in the first frame.
Second Period – The Devils once again proved to be the more clinical side in the second period, racing into an 8-1 lead by the midway point; doing the damage were Alexander Trendall, Elliot Lewis, Rhys McCormick and Christopher Hocquigny who each grabbed a goal. The Lions did have chances of their own, Tom Hnilica and Dexter Crawford coming close to getting on the scoresheet, before the home side finally got the score back to 8-2 in the 33rd minute through Conner Smith (32:56, assisted Joe Berry and Ben Gillingham). It was Smith’s third goal in a Lions jersey in just his second game for the club. The period would end with the Devils leading 8-2, despite the Lions again out-shooting them in the period 11-10.
Third Period – The Lions began to tire in the final period, and the reigning playoff champions made them pay for that, as they scored six more goals to increase the score to 14-2 by the 57th minute. Goalscorers for the Devils in the third period were Murray (x2), McCormick, Alexander Cole, James Hounsome and Richard Facey. There was still time for the Lions to get a consolation goal back in the very last minute of the game, Richard Hodge (59:03, unassisted) beating Christian Cole to wrap up the scoring on the night. The Devils out-shot the Lions in the third period 19-15.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Lions were left to reflect on their best start of the season, as they held the lead from the third until the 12th minute, after which point the Devils took over and dominated the game as one would expect from a team of their quality. Man of the Match for the Lions was defenceman Jake Wadge, who sacrificed his body all night with a number of blocked shots, while player-coach Alex Murray took home the award for the visitors.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 3-14 Solent Devils
Period Scores: 1-4/1-4/1-6
Shots: Lee Valley Lions 43-45 Solent Devils (17-16/11-10/15-19)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 0-0 Solent Devils
Scorers: Lee Valley – Conner Smith 1+1, Oliver Glover 1+0, Richard Hodge 1+0, Ben Gillingham 0+1, Joe Berry 0+1, Tom Hnilica 0+1
Solent – Alex Murray 4+3, Daniel Lackey 0+5, Elliot Lewis 2+2, Alexander Trendall 1+3, Alexander Cole 1+2, Rhys McCormick 2+0, Richard Facey 1+1, James Hounsome 1+1, Christopher Hocquigny 1+1, Daniel Shier 0+2, Callum Farrell 0+2, Ben Lock 1+0, Mason Wild 0+1, Calumn Perella-Fox 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – Steve Grout (46:18 played, 37 shots/11 goals against), James Andrew (13:42 played, 12 shots/3 goals against)
Solent – Christian Cole (60:00 played, 43 shots/3 goals against)
Man of the Match – Jake Wadge (Lee Valley), Alex Murray (Solent)
Sunday vs Chelmsford
Three players who had iced for the Lions the previous evening – James O’Brien, Joshua Irish and Nicky Brathwaite – were unavailable for this game, while Joe Miller returned to the lineup, giving the Lions 13 skaters plus starting netminder James Andrew and backup Steve Grout. The Chieftains brought 17 skaters plus former Lions netminder James Tipple.
First Period – The Lions showed that the previous evening was no fluke, as they took the lead for the second night in a row, this time through Tom Hnilica (3:26, assisted Conner Smith). The Chieftains hit back a few minutes later through Grant Bartlett, but the Lions once again took the lead in the ninth minute as Dexter Crawford (8:18, unassisted) scored his first goal as a Lion, and it came on the powerplay.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the Chieftains hit back once again in the 11th minute with a powerplay goal of their own through new Swedish import signing David Millner. And even more disappointingly for the Lions, they conceded their third goal of the period with just nine seconds to go until the first intermission as Elliot Dervish fired the puck past James Andrew after an unlucky bounce.
This came a few minutes after the Lions thought they had taken a 3-2 lead, with the goal being waved off due to the puck hitting Chelmsford netminder Tipple in the helmet in the build-up to the goal. The first frame therefore ended with the Chieftains leading 3-2, having out-shot the home side heavily 24-9 but finding Lions netminder Andrew in great form.
Second Period – There were no goals from either side in the first seven minutes of the second period, with Lions forward Joe Berry coming closest to breaking the deadlock. The Chieftains then struck three times between the 28th and 35th minutes to take a 6-2 lead, Bartlett (x2) and Ross Cowan scoring the goals. Andrew once again made some top drawer saves in the Lions net to prevent further goals from being scored – and the Lions got one back in the 38th minute, Gus Zimmerman (37:45, assisted Joe Berry) scoring a short-handed marker after a great assist from Joe Berry. The second period ended with the Chieftains leading 6-3, and out-shooting the hosts 20-8 in the period.
Third Period – The period started with Lions netminder James Andrew being involved in a collision, but after a few minutes of recovery time he was able to continue in the game. However he conceded two goals not long afterwards that allowed the Chieftains to go 8-3 up, Courtney Grant and Millner getting them. After this, the Lions swapped netminders with Steve Grout taking over for the remaining 13 minutes of the game.
A further Chieftains goal through James Ayling made it 9-3 to the visitors; however the Lions did not give up despite the scoreline, and got two goals back between the 50th and 52nd minutes. Firstly Richard Hodge (49:48, assisted Jake Wadge and Joe Miller) grabbed his second of the goal of the weekend to reduce the deficit to 8-5, before Hnilica (52:00, assisted Berry and Crawford) scored his second of the night to make it 9-5 in favour of the visitors. The Chieftains scored one final goal with just under three minutes left through Ayling to take a hard-fought 10-5 win in the end.
Despite the defeat, it was definitely the best performance of the season for the Lions, as they matched the league leaders for large portions of the game and scored five goals – the first time this season that the Lions have scored that many goals in a single game. The losing margin of five goals was also the smallest margin of defeat this season. Man of the Match for the Lions was Joe Miller after an energetic performance from the young forward, while James Ayling took home the same award for the Chieftains.
Final Score: Lee Valley Lions 5-10 Chelmsford Chieftains
Period Scores: 2-3/1-3/2-4
Shots: Lee Valley Lions 29-63 Chelmsford Chieftains (9-24/8-20/12-19)
Penalty Minutes: Lee Valley Lions 38-20 Chelmsford Chieftains
Scorers: Lee Valley – Tom Hnilica 2+0, Dexter Crawford 1+1, Joe Berry 0+2, Gus Zimmerman 1+0, Richard Hodge 1+0, Joe Miller 0+1, Jake Wadge 0+1, Conner Smith 0+1
Chieftains – James Ayling 2+3, Grant Bartlett 3+1, David Millner 2+2, Gary Brown 0+2, Elliot Dervish 1+0, Courtney Grant 1+0, Ross Cowan 1+0, TJ Fillery 0+1, Ross Brears 0+1
Goaltenders: Lee Valley – James Andrew (47:36 played, 54 shots/8 goals against), Steve Grout (12:24 played, 9 shots/2 goals against)
Chelmsford – James Tipple (60:00 played, 29 shots/5 goals against)
Man of the Match – Joe Miller (Lee Valley), James Ayling (Chelmsford)