Following an improved showing at home against Haringey the previous weekend, the Lee Valley Lions were looking to continue that upturn in form on Sunday as they travelled to Cardiff to take on the Fire.
It would be no easy task however, with several players unavailable for the long Sunday night trip to south Wales; the likes of Ben Gillingham, Joe Berry, Richard Hodge, Joshua Irish, Joe Weare and Jack Ball were unable to make the trip and thus the Lions arrived in the Welsh capital rather short-benched. However the visitors did hand a debut to new signing Gus Zimmerman, who joins the club after a number of years playing university hockey for the Imperial Devils.
The Fire dressed 18 skaters as well as starting netminder James Whiting and back-up – and player-coach – Chris Douglas.
First Period – Just like against Haringey last week, the Lions came out strong defensively to begin the game and did not concede an early goal, which has been an issue in several games this season. They did take a few minor penalties in the early stages – Joe Trotter, Michael Jacobs and Simon Jones all taking trips to the penalty box in the first ten minutes – but they were able to kill all of these penalties off with James Andrew making some great saves in the Lions net.
It took the hosts just over 17 minutes to finally grab their first goal, which came through Lewis Stevens (17:08, assisted Chris Fox) with the assist coming through former Lions forward Chris Fox. And the hosts doubled their advantage when Tom Hnilica took the visitors’ fourth penalty of the game late on in the first period, Stephen Deacon (19:16, assisted Jordan Powell and Alan Armour) making it 2-0 on the powerplay. There was to be no more scoring in the period, with the Lions heading into the break only two goals down and still very much in the game.
Second Period – The Lions’ cause wasn’t helped at the start of the second period when netminder James Andrew was involved in a collision with a Cardiff forward. He was able to continue but it seemed to put him off his game in the early stages of the period, with the visitors striking three times within the first five minutes to take a 5-0 lead; firstly Samual Bryant (20:46, assisted Tamas Elias and Jackson Price) scored just 46 seconds into the period, before Elliott Murdoch (22:06, assisted Cameron Basnett and Viktor Langseth) and Jackson Price (23:48, assisted Ross Wilkinson) grabbed two more in quick succession.
The visitors were able to calm the game down after this – and despite the tired legs that were starting to creep in, the Lions stayed disciplined and did not take a single penalty in the period, making some good defensive plays while Andrew continued to make some top saves as well. Eventually Cardiff’s pressure and larger bench came to the fore however, as they scored three more goals to put the game to bed; Elias (29:05, assisted Bryant and Price), Stevens (32:04, assisted Deacon and Powell) and Morgan Evans (37:09, assisted Price and Phil Manny) doing the damage.
The Lions did have something to celebrate late in the period though as they scored their first goal of the game, Tom Hnilica (38:27, assisted Michael Jacobs and Gus Zimmerman) finishing past James Whiting after nice build-up play with Jacobs and newcomer Zimmerman. There was to be no further scoring in the period, with the Lions trailing 8-1 after two.
Third Period – The Lions came out quickly at the start of period three and got another goal back just 39 seconds in, Michael Jacobs (40:39, assisted Zummerman and Hnilica) scoring his first goal of the season – and indeed his first for the club since the 2008-09 season – after more good build-up play between the trio of Jacobs, Hnilica and Zimmerman.
Soon afterwards, Zimmerman would take a 2+10 for boarding, which put Cardiff on the powerplay and allowed them to score their ninth goal of the evening through Bryant (42:55, assisted Price and Wilkinson) to go 9-2 up. Four minutes later, they reached double figures through Joe Morris (46:10, assisted Price) and it looked like the score might ramp up in the latter stages.
But despite the short bench, the Lions fought hard right until the final whistle, defending well and creating a few chances of their own as the time ticked down. The home side were unable to score any more goals in the last 14 minutes of the game, with the visitors holding firm and keeping the score at 10-2.
There was a scary moment late in the game when Cardiff’s Ross Wilkinson needed medical attention after a mid-ice collision; however he was able to make it back out onto the ice for the post-match handshakes following the final buzzer.
The match ended 10-2 to the home side, with the Lions giving a good account of themselves and playing with an impressive team spirit. Despite having the shortest bench of any away game so far this season, the Lions kept the scoreline at a respectable level – it was the smallest number of goals they have conceded in an away game so far this campaign – and the visitors also managed to score two goals on the road for only the second time this season. There is still a lot of work for the Lions to do – but the season is yet young, and signs of improvement are there.
Netminder James Andrew took home the Man of the Match award for the Lions after making 67 saves in the game, while the trio of Jacobs-Hnilica-Zimmerman also impressed for the visitors with some great chemistry. The Lions will now look to build further on the last few performances when they host Bracknell next Sunday.
Final Score: Cardiff Fire 10-2 Lee Valley Lions
Period Scores: 2-0/6-1/2-1
Shots: Cardiff Fire 77-19 Lee Valley Lions (28-4/25-6/24-9)
Penalty Minutes: Cardiff Fire 12-20 Lee Valley Lions
Scorers: Cardiff – Jackson Price 1+4, Samual Bryant 2+1, Jordan Powell 0+3, Lewis Stevens 2+0, Stephen Deacon 1+1, Tamas Elias 1+1, Ross Wilkinson 0+2, Joe Morris 1+0, Elliott Murdoch 1+0, Morgan Evans 1+0, Alan Armour 0+1, Cameron Basnett 0+1, Phil Manny 0+1, Viktor Langseth 0+1, Chris Fox 0+1
Lee Valley – Tom Hnilica 1+1, Michael Jacobs 1+1, Gus Zimmerman 0+2
Goaltenders: Cardiff – James Whiting (60:00 played, 19 shots/2 goals against)
Lee Valley – James Andrew (60:00 played, 77 shots/10 goals against)
Man of the Match – James Andrew (Lee Valley)
The Lee Valley Lions are back in action this upcoming Sunday 4th November, as the Bracknell Hornets visit the Den. Faceoff will be at 17:30.