Nottingham Lions 8 Solihull Barons 3
The Nottingham Lions remain three points clear at the top of NIHL Division Two after a staggering victory over local rivals Solihull Barons at the National Ice Centre on Sunday night.
In a thrilling end-to-end game the Lions looked to be skating rings around their Midlands rivals with both sets of players getting battered and bruised along the way.
This crunch-clash had been hyped-up via Social Media all week with both sides desperately needing the two points. Solihull to close the gap on Nottingham, and the Lions to pull that bit further away from Deeside Dragons in second place.
The contest started in traditional fashion with hits coming in thick and fast and within the first three minutes Solihull’s Perry Doyle was in the sin bin for a two minute charging minor, leading to Lions breaking the deadlock at 3.05 through the usual suspect of Joe Wightman, who smashed the puck home after a scramble around the goal.
Just short of nine minutes later Wightman yet again found himself capitalising on the power play, lashing home after a great pass from Luke Branin. The American’s vision gave Wightman a great one-on-one chance against the Solihull netminder Sam Hewitt, unleashing a drilled shot into the roof of the net.
At 13.22 the master Wightman was at it again, securing an early hat trick with his twenty-third goal of the season.
Solihull pulled one back on 15.27 with a powerplay goal from David Rogers at a crucial time in the game for the visitors, bringing belief that they could get something from the game.
The second period started in the same way as the first with the Lions bagging two goals in the first five minutes, the first coming from Gareth O’Flaherty at 23.49, then at 24.55 Stuart Parker made it five for the hosts, marking his home debut with a goal.
The game then got a lot more physical with Solihull racking up an amazing eighteen penalty minutes as the Barons hit harder against the boards and constantly troubled Lions netminder Alan Levers’ crease. However, the Lions never rose to any of the scuffles that broke out and continued to play their own game.
At 36.20 Jose Leon got in on the act, firing home a powerplay goal for the hosts as they scored their sixth of the night, giving Lions a five goal cushion going into the final period, but a huge twenty minutes was still to come.
Just under three minutes into the final period Solihull got a goal back through Doyle, reducing their arrears to just four.
At 54.24 the visitors struck again through the Barons top goal scorer Richard Slater, making it a three-goal game and keeping the bumper crowd at the NIC wondering if there was a miracle about to happen for the West Midlands side.
However, any thoughts of a Barons comeback were well a truly quashed on 57.22 when Luke Branin, after providing five assists, hit home to put the game to bed and secure a big two points for the hosts.
The final nail was hammered into the Solihull coffin at 59.22 through O’Flaherty, who launched a fortunate rebound into the back of the net after following up Christy Johnson-Brown’s original shot, which forced a great save from Sam Hewitt.
Nottingham coach, Matt Bradbury, hailed this perfomance as a great win for his young, learning side, who just seem to improve every game. Although on the other end Solihull’s Doyle couldn’t express enough that there was no excuse for the result and their performance.
LionsTV interviews with players and coaches from both teams will be available to view here from Monday evening.
Nottingham are next in action on the 10th February as Deeside Dragons come to town in yet another must-win game for both sides as the race for top spot heats-up further. Face off is at 7.15pm.