Nottingham Lions 1 Telford Tigers 2.
A depleted Nottingham Lions side were left stunned, as they fell to a last minute winner at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening, losing 2-1 to the high-flying Telford Tigers.
Ben Wood's ninth goal of the season was not enough to prevent defeat.
Exceptional netminding from Tigers goalie Denis Bell and a James Smith goal, fifty seconds from the end, made sure that a Ben Wood equaliser on twenty-seven minutes was not enough for the Lions to secure any points from their Shropshire-based opponents.
Nottingham were coming into the game in good form, on the back of three straight victories, including Saturday night's comfortable 12-4 win over the Bulldogs in Bradford and they were also able to welcome back Craig Wallis, Stuart Parker and Warren Gilfoyle, who all missed the trip to West-Yorkshire.
However, Matt Bradbury was unable to call upon the injured top-scoring pairing of Ivo Dimitrijevs and Dan Hazeldine, whilst defensemen Adam Andrews and Jamie Hovell were also unavailable for selection.
The Lions were also without the luxury of calling up their promising young juniors, with the clubs' Under-18s side otherwise engaged in Bradford, leaving Bradbury short on bodies and with limited attacking options.
The third-placed Tigers were coming into the game fresh from the previous night's narrow 4-3 home loss to the unbeaten Solihull Barons and were keen not to end the weekend pointless but they also had the disadvantage of a short-bench, with just fourteen skaters available, including two netminders.
Despite the Lions spending much of a scoreless opening period keeping their visitors at bay on the power play, they looked the more likely to open the scoring, firstly through Ben Wood, who had a 4-on-3 short-handed breakaway opportunity but was unable to get the puck on target, firing over the crossbar.
Then after nine minutes of play, Nottingham captain Luke Thomas was controversially given a 5+game penalty for slashing, leaving head coach Bradbury with just ten skaters and two netminders but Telford struggled to find a way past Tom Hovell in the Lions' goal, whilst at the other end, Parker was unlucky not to break the deadlock, as he was denied on another short-handed breakaway, with visitors' custodian Bell able to stop the veteran forward's low shot.
However, it was the Tigers who managed to open the scoring six minutes into the second period, after they clawed their way through the home defence, with Jame Callagher finding a way past Hovell.
Just two minutes later, Nottingham were back on level terms, when Wood finished off a well-worked move for his ninth goal of the campaign and proved the Lions could still be an attacking threat, despite missing their two main marksmen.
Nottingham then went onto dominate the remainder of the period and despite outshooting their opponents 21-6, frustratingly, they couldn't add to their goal, with Bell making numerous outstanding stops to keep his side level going into the second intermission.
Veteran Stuart Parker claimed another Lions 'Man Of The Match' award.
Telford came out with renewed vigour in the final period but it was still the Lions looking the more likely to push ahead, numerous chances came and went for Bradbury's men but with ten minutes left in the game, they then found themselves down to just nine skaters, after Wallis received a check to the head from Tigers' captain Daniel Croft, which saw the d-man stretchered off the ice and the perpetrator given a 5+match penalty.
There was a lengthy delay as Wallis was removed from the ice but to everyone's relief, it was good to see the 20 year-old still moving and talking to the home first aid staff, as he was taken to a waiting ambulance.
Not phased by their lack of numbers, Nottingham pushed-on for a winner but once again Bell's heroics in the Telford goal meant that they were not able to capitalise on the resulting five minute power play.
Despite this, the Lions still looked odds-on to find a second goal until, with just fifty seconds remaining, the visitors broke through the home backline and Smith was hand to win the game for the Tigers and leave a shell-shocked Nottingham scratching their heads, wondering how they had not managed to take something from an encounter they had controlled for the previous forty minutes.
The Lions will now look to bounce back from defeat at the first time of asking, as they plan to complete a four-game, season whitewash over bottom side Bradford Bulldogs, in what will be their last game of 2014. Ticket details for the festive 7.30pm face off at the NIC are available by clicking here.
All images are courtesy of Ed Chappell.
Ben Wood 1+0, Stuart Parker 0+1, Christy Johnson-Brown 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 0-0, 2nd 1-1, 3rd 0-1.
Shots: 1st 10-12, 2nd 21-6, 3rd 15-7. Total 46-25.
Penalty Mins: 1st 31-4, 2nd 14-12, 3rd 2-31. Total 47-47.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Stuart Parker.