Nottingham Lions 3 Widnes Wild 4.
The Nottingham Lions missed out on claiming their revenge over the Widnes Wild on Sunday evening, as they were narrowly beaten on home ice at the National Ice Centre.
Last month, the Lions travelled to Widnes and found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-1 humbling and only a Lee Holland goal, seventeen seconds from the final buzzer, prevented the Wild from being the first team to shut out Nottingham since the Solihull Barons in March last year.
Prior to the game, Matt Bradbury’s men were well aware that their visitors were currently in good form, having won their last three games, including their taming of the Lions, three weeks ago.
Coach Bradbury welcomed the return of forward Rob Perks to his line-up, who missed last Saturday’s win at Hull Jets and the following day’s defeat at Sheffield Senators but Nottingham were missing a long list of key players, including Joe Wightman, Slawomir Kasprzak, Cameron Good, Christy Johnson-Brown, James Francis-Barrie and Connor McNaughton.
Despite all the pre-game talk of revenge, the Lions got off to the worst possible start, conceding in the opening five seconds of the game. Some minds were quite clearly still getting into game mode, as Dan Bracegirdle put the Wild in front in record time.
The visitor’s lead wasn’t to last however and on fourteen minutes, just as he had done in both games during last weekend’s double header, Luke Branin coolly fired home Nottingham’s opening goal, finishing off some excellent work by line-mate Dan Hazeldine, breaking through from his own zone.
With the scores tied at the first intermission, the Lions were hoping that unlike in last weekend’s games, Branin’s strike wouldn’t prove to be their only goal of the evening and much to their relief, this was not to be the case as Hazeldine scored a superb, short-handed solo effort just after the halfway mark, when he tricked his way past a Wild defenceman before effortlessly firing past Stephen Gilmartin in the Widnes goal.
Hazeldine nearly netted his second short-handed goal just thirty seconds later, as he found himself in a carbon copy situation to his earlier chance, only this time Gilmartin was equal to the promising forward’s shot, saving down low with his right pad.
The game did have its feistier moments, including when Perks found himself penned into Gilmartin’s crease, after the visitors had failed to clear their zone and he and his opponent Troy Evans were both sent to the penalty box for exchanging blows amongst the mass heap of bodies surrounding the Wild net.
Despite the Lions dominating large parts of the second period, Widnes nearly got themselves back on level terms, striking Alan Levers’ metalwork in the dying seconds and making it clear for all to see that the contest was far from over.
Penalties were to cost the Lions dear in the opening minutes of the third period as the Wild edged themselves back in front with two power play goals, the first coming on forty-two minutes via Ben Brown, the second coming eight minutes later, courtesy of Geoff Wigglesworth.
Nottingham responded almost immediately to tie the game at three, thanks to youngster Connor Glossop’s goal, just over a minute later but cruelly all the Lions’ hard work would be quickly undone with five minutes remaining, when Wigglesworth was in the right place at the right time to score the game winner and send the Wild home with the points.
Nottingham will now look to bounce back against Coventry Blaze next Sunday (23rd February), knowing a win would see them leapfrog their local rivals into third place in the Laidler Conference standings and further consolidate a play off qualification berth. Face off at the Skydome is at 8.15pm.
Luke Branin 1+0, Dan Hazeldine 1+1, Connor Glossop 1+0, Luke Thomas 0+1, Lee Holland 0+1, Ben Wood 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-1, 2nd 1-0, 3rd 1-3.
Shots: 1st 9-7, 2nd 13-7, 3rd 10-11. Total: 32-25.
Penalty Mins: 1st 6-4, 2nd 20-8, 3rd 14-2. Total: 40-14.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Connor Glossop.