Lee Valley Lions end 2019 with a defeat to Invicta Mustangs
- Credit: Archant
NIHL South Two: Invicta Mustangs 7 Lee Valley Lions 2
Lee Valley Lions travelled to Kent for their final fixture of the calendar year 2019, to take on a high-flying Invicta Mustangs outfit which had won nine games on the bounce coming into this one.
The Lions were missing a host of first team regulars for the game. Defencemen Daniel Tamasauskas, Oscar Kally and Richie Pickering; forwards Joe Berry, Ross Sin-Hidge, Jordan Sullivan and Vincenzo Ferrara; and netminder Naomi Healey were all unable to make the trip, leaving the Lions with 13 skaters plus netminder James Andrew.
The home side came out with a lot of confidence in the opening period and dominated possession, but Lions goalie James Andrew was on top form and made a number of great saves to keep the game goalless up until the 16 minute mark.
It was in the 17th minute that the Mustangs finally got on the board with a quickfire double, as Regan O'Neil and Joseph Bliss scored within 23 seconds of each other to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
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There was to be no further scoring in the first period, with the Mustangs dominating the shots 21-6 against the short-benched Lions, but only managing to score twice thanks to Andrew's heroics.
The Lions came out well to start the second period - in a stark contrast to both of their games last weekend - and halved the deficit to 2-1 just ten seconds in. It was 18-year-old forward Charlie Nichols who grabbed the goal for the Lions, scoring his first goal for the club after moving across from Romford juniors in the summer.
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There was barely time to breathe before the Mustangs scored again to make it 3-1 however, with Anthony Baskerville restoring the home side's two-goal cushion. This advantage was then stretched to 4-1 in the 27th minute as Daniel Clayton got in on the goal-scoring action.
The Lions didn't let their heads drop though, and got the scoreline back to 4-2 in the 33rd minute as Robert Cole scored a powerplay goal, with an assist from Jordan Ho. It was Cole's fifth goal for the club in just his seventh game, as he continues to show goalscoring prowess in front of net.
There was to be just one more goal in the middle period and it went the Mustangs' way, Baskerville grabbing his second of the night in the final minute of the period. Once again the home side dominated the shots, putting 29 shots on James Andrew in the period - with the Lions netminder once again proving to be on fine form as he made 26 saves to keep the score at 5-2.
It wouldn't have been a surprise if the short-benched Lions struggled in the last period, but they put in a strong defensive performance - once again led by Andrew between the pipes - to keep the scoreline fairly tight right to the end.
It took ten minutes of the period before the Mustangs could score again, when Richard Harris made it 6-2; and it was not until the 55th minute that Invicta wrapped up the scoring as Michael Stokes made it 7-2.
There were quite a few penalties towards the end of the game, with the Lions getting several powerplay chances; but the weary visitors were unable to take advantage, and as the final buzzer sounded on the calendar year 2019, they went down 7-2 in Kent.
Man of the Match for the Lions was goalscorer Cole, while netminder Andrew deserves special credit for stopping 62 of the 69 shots that he faced.
The Lions now have an extended five-week break, before facing off against the same opponents away from home on Saturday, January, 4.
Faceoff at Planet Ice Gillingham for that game will be at 5.15pm.