UEA Avalanche beat the Birmingham Lions 7-3 in their first challenge game of the new season, which, despite the score, was a closely matched fixture.
The Avs started strong, winning the first faceoff of the first period, pushing the puck straight into Birmingham’s defensive zone. From then on though, there was no clear dominance, making for a gripping game. Birmingham’s Ellis Hammond stole the puck from UEA before going on to take it all the way to the net. Luckily, goaltender Sam Birkentals stood strong and deflected it away. Avalanche scored first, eleven minutes into the first period: a chippy goal from Ben Long, after a few close calls for us. However, eight minutes later Birmingham’s John Bawn answered back, making it 1–1 to end the first period.
An astonishing 40 seconds into the second period, UEA’s Graham Austin scored, a quick start driving us up to 2–1. It didn’t take long for a response though, with Birmingham pushing the puck back into UEA’s defensive zone and shooting, though the move was thwarted by a rapid pad save from Birkentals. They couldn’t be held off forever though, with an attempt from Birmingham’s Oliver Swift finding a way through, bringing the score to 2-2. Avalanche didn’t take that lying down, with goals from Dom Rodwell and Phil Carter pushing the Avs up to 4-2.
Birmingham tried to fight back, taking shots, though none found home. A highlight of the period was Austin’s skilful breakaway goal, threading through the Birmingham team as if they weren’t there, to score his second goal of the night, making it 5-2. He made ice hockey look easy.
UEA’s night only got better going into the third, shooting the puck straight into Birmingham’s zone. Though tired after 40 minutes of play, they fought on, creating traffic around the net to trying to distract the goaltender enough to chip in a goal. They scored a further two goals in the period, from Joe Fitzsimmons, and another from Carter. Neither team backed down, taking shots on goal for the remainder of the period, until one last hit from Birmingham found its way through in the last five minutes. When the final whistle was blown, the score was 7-3. UEA’s man of the match was Sam Birkentals after some amazing saves, and Birmingham’s was a deserving Ellis Hammond.
It was an excellent first game for UEA Avalanche, with several rookies playing their first game ever- what a result for them to have. This victory bodes well for the rest of the season, with Avalanche looking forward to their next game against the Nottingham Mavericks on 27th November.