The only way is up

The only way is up

08 Sep 2013 | David Carr/Pro Hockey News

Imagine that your team lost every game last season, conceded 193 goals and you faced almost 1000 shots in only 22 games. Would you quit? Look for another team? Or as Lee Vally Lions goalie Aaron Mallet come back eager to improve and ready for more?


In the pleasant surroundings of Lee Valley Lions home ice rink in Leyton, East London, opposition players were boosting their personal point’s tallies on a regular basis during 2012/13 much to the chagrin of the Lions fans.

In hockey as in life, for every winner there is of course a loser and whilst the green shirted Lions may have been the perfect hosts on far too many occasions last season, few could feel anything but sympathy for their 25 year old goalie Aaron Mallet.

“We had a very tough season last year not winning any games but it was not due to lack of effort” admitted Mallet, who is now in his second full season with the team. Most games the score line did not reflect the game we played and many teams like eventual champions Oxford agreed. Despite adversity the best game we played was at Peterborough. Although we only travelled with nine players we pushed on hard and never let the game go. We lost a player from a shoulder hit to make things even tougher but even the home fans began cheering for us, so that made us realise just how hard we had worked to get a respectable score line from the game.

At times the team did struggle to pull our heads together and get over the poor run of form but Gary (Coach Gary Dodds) made the best out a bad situation and kept the squad together. Facing 60-70 shots per game wasn’t easy and we (team of goalies) tried our hardest to keep the score line down, but the team are a good bunch of boys and that made the losses a lot more bearable at times”

The truth is of course that far from downhearted with the situation, Mallet is one of many players who are just delighted to get a second chance playing the sport he loves. Few, if any who watched Mallet get peppered with Slovakia’s finest rubber probably saw him make his debut in the English Premier League in 2002 aged only 14. This was a dream chance for any goalie let alone the skinny teenager who confidently skated onto the ice that memorable night at Alexandra Palace for the Haringey Racers.

“It was a dream just to sit on the bench that night” explained Mallet when recalling his call up to the Racers from Coach Roger Black. I was told during the second to get ready to go onto the ice and it was a really something I couldn’t believe was happening. I saw it as a stepping stone and it made me even more determined to try and make a future in the game, despite my young age”

After that breakthrough season of sorts, a mixed junior career saw Mallet travel as far as Milton Keynes to boost his chances of success; however he ended up back at Haringey in the Under 19 team when disaster struck.

“I got injured in my first year of u19s against Chelmsford after over stretching on a glove save” explained the Londoner. I pulled three muscles in my lower back which put me out for six weeks; I managed to kit up and train after the six weeks but had to have a second break for three months to repair my back. This then happened again when I was playing for the Racers a couple years later under Lee Mercer and halfway through the season my back went and I had to take time off from the sport”

Time away from the game is always difficulty to return from, but Mallet rekindled his enthusiasm in the confines of recreational hockey.

“I returned to the sport after having to buy all new kit and signed up for the London Legion recreational team” said Mallet. "After the summer trials at Lee Valley Gary Dodds offered me the slot along with Steve Grout and third goalie Ruth Cattell. After a few games Steve left the team and I become number one”

Mallet has been announced again alongside fellow local stopper George Alley this season and the mood around the Lee Valley Ice Centre is far more positive.

The only way is up for the Lions and after securing the signing of former Streatham Redskins forward Gennadi Yufit amongst a number of solid recruits including rumours of the return of local boy and former Haringey and Trafford star Nick Alley to the line-up, confidence is high last season will not be repeated.

“This year is looking promising although we have lost a few players” explained Mallet. "We have replaced them and have some quality players training with us at the moment and they have already settled into the team nicely. We are looking set to go for our first game and are aiming to be shocking the league. I believe we are no longer going to be the team get easy points from. Our first game will be in remembrance of former team mate Jordan Jones and I have personally promised his family that we will do everything we can to win the game for him”

Lee Valley face Slough NIHL Jets on the 7thSeptember at the Lee Valley Ice Centre which still gives Mallet less than a week to change his mind about facing those flying black discs again.

“I never lost the bug of playing hockey and I missed it loads” he said smiling. “I appreciate Lee Valley giving me the chance to play again at league level and although I had the four year break I feel this season will be my season to shine and I plan to back the boys to the middle if not higher in the table”

Mid-table would be a good return for the Lions this season and no one would begrudge this likeable small club a better campaign than the one they hope to consign to history in the coming months.

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