Nottingham Lions 6 Deeside Dragons 2.
The Nottingham Lions gave their play off qualification chances a much-needed boost, with an impressive victory over second-placed Deeside Dragons, at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
The Dragons were the only side that the Lions had yet to take any points from this season and Sunday’s clash was Nottingham’s final chance to rectify this, after three narrow defeats by their Welsh opponents, so far during this campaign.
Nottingham were looking to bounce-back from last Sunday’s uncharacteristic 5-1 road defeat at Widnes, whilst the Dragons were also looking to pick themselves up, after a 4-2 loss at Coventry last weekend.
Christy Johnson-Brown and Slawomir Kasprzak both missed out through injury, whilst recent signing Ben Foster-Wilson made his home debut, in front of a bumper NIC crowd.
It took eleven minutes of fast and furious hockey before the deadlock was broken, with the visitors grabbing the first goal, courtesy of Michael Jones who was in the right place at the right time to launch the puck high over Alan Levers’ left shoulder and into the net.
Keen to avoid a third straight loss for the first time since the beginning of 2012, Nottingham’s response was almost immediate, when Jack Baveystock netted his first goal of the season, just thirty seconds later.
The Lions then had the opportunity to increase their lead during a five-on-three power play, after Alex McPhee and Simon Furnival were both sent to the box for the Dragons, just seconds apart but the home side failed to capitalise on their advantage and the game remained a tie going into the first intermission.
It took just over a minutes play in the second period for the Lions to move in front, thanks to young forward Connor Glossop, whose neat flick left Deeside goalie Matty Compton with no chance of keeping the puck out.
Dan Hazeldine then almost made it three for Nottingham, when he found himself through alone on the Dragons’ net, only to be denied by a quality Compton save.
However, Deeside made it clear they were not going to roll over easily, when Shaun Kippin made it a 2-2 game five minutes later, after a short sustained spell of pressure in the Nottingham zone.
Scoring his second goal in as many games, Lee Holland then restored the Lions’ lead on twenty-eight minutes, with a bullet of a shot from the point, during a four on four situation.
Four minutes later, Levers had to be alert when he stopped Furnival’s shot on the breakaway, after some confusion between the Lions in the neutral zone had gifted him a one-on-one opportunity.
The Lions then gave themselves some much needed breathing space going into the third period, when on the power play, Rob Perks’ shot was deflected by Foster-Wilson, in front of the crease and found its way into the goal, for Nottingham’s fourth on thirty-six minutes.
The first thirteen minutes of a tense and bad-tempered third period played out with out any further goals, until Joseph Steeples, who was a major injury doubt due to recently having had surgery on a facial wound picked up in last weekend’s game in Widnes, was on hand to poke home the puck after Compton had spilled his initial save.
Cruising at 5-2, the outcome of the game never looked in doubt in the final minutes and the Lions rounded off a great night’s work, when Stephen Breisner scored his fourth of the campaign, again during a four-on-four play.
So, Matt Bradbury’s men comfortably secured the two points, in what was arguably their best performance of the season so far and their thoughts now turn to a vital away double-header next weekend, against Hull Jets at Hull Arena on Saturday (5pm) before travelling to Ice Sheffield, to take on their local rivals Sheffield Senators on Sunday (1.30pm).
Jack Baveystock 1+0, Connor Glossop 1+0, Lee Holland 1+0, Ben Foster-Wilson 1+0, Joseph Steeples 1+0, Stephen Breisner 1+0, Ben Wood 0+1, Luke Branin 0+2, Dan Hazeldine 0+1, Rob Perks 0+2, Joe Wightman 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-1, 2nd 3-1, 3rd 2-0.
Shots: 1st 12-11, 2nd 13-13, 3rd 12-20. Total: 37-44.
Penalty Mins: 1st 4-4, 2nd 4-10, 3rd 6-6. Total: 14-20.
Lions MOTM (Sponsored by Ice Breakers): Joe Wightman.