Sheffield Senators 4 Nottingham Lions 3.
A short-benched Nottingham Lions side were narrowly beaten 4-3 by local rivals Sheffield Senators in a pulsating derby match at Ice Sheffield on Sunday evening.
Craig Wallis opened the scoring for the Lions.
Goals from Craig Wallis, Stuart Parker and Slawomir Kasprzak were not enough to take home the points, as a fantastic team performance from the Lions went unrewarded, after a Sheffield winner three minutes from time.
The Lions were still smarting from the previous night's narrow defeat in Widnes and were eager to salvage something from their double-header road weekend but with only eleven skaters and two netminders available for selection, Matt Bradbury's men faced an uphill struggle to take home some points back down the M1, against a second-placed Senators side, who were also keen to get back to winning ways, after being shut-out at Telford on Saturday night.
Twenty-four hours previous, the Lions could only muster fourteen skaters against the Wild but with the Under-18s already engaged with a home fixture against Hull, coach Bradbury found himself even shorter on numbers, as only eleven skaters along with two goalies were able to make the short journey north.
D-man Conor Gordon joined the long list of missing seniors who were also absent against Widnes, although veteran forward Kasprzak and Parker were able to return to provide some much-needed experience, along with defenceman Sam Illsley.
Nottingham were also more than happy to send young netmider Tom Hovell on a last minute loan to their Elite League cousins the Panthers, safe in the knowledge that Warren Gilfoyle and Martin Chalke were still available for selection.
The Lions were always going to be up against it, with such a sparse roster and with just over two minutes played Tom Humphries put the home side ahead on the power play, after Rob McDonald was sent to the penalty box for holding.
Gilfoyle would have been disappointed with conceding such an early goal, especially as the puck almost seemed to go straight through his glove on its way to the net but the custodian quickly redeemed himself, with a string of fine saves in the following minutes.
Taking penalties was proving to be a costly business for Nottingham, when seconds after Luke Thomas was sent to the sin-bin for slashing, Luke Smith doubled Sheffield's lead on eight minutes.
Defenceman Wallis then halved the Lions' deficit on eleven minutes, when he was on hand to neatly tuck away a rebound for his first goal of the campaign.
Three minutes before the first intermission, the Senators restored their two-goal advantage, as Gilfoyle was caught off-guard by a puck rebounding off the boards behind his net, allowing Joel Aheran to fire home from close range.
Stuart Parker netted his fifth goal in six games.
Bradbury's men were down but not out, as they edged their way back into the game again on twenty-seven minutes via Parker, who cooly slotted the puck home past the hapless Sheffield goalie Mark Hartley, for his fifth goal in six games.
The Lions were the better team in the second period, controlling the tempo of the game and enjoying large spells of possession, chances also came an went for Nottingham, who were unfortunate not be starting the third period in front or at least, on level terms with their hosts.
With a hundred minutes of tight and tough competetive hockey under their belts over two days, the depleted Lions could be excused a few tired limbs and minds but to their credit, they continued to drive forward and after a near miss from Kasprzak, the Polish forward claimed a deserved goal and equaliser for Nottingham, nestling the puck just inside Hartley's right-hand post, after one-on-one breakaway on forty-eight minutes.
The game then became a fierce end-to-end battle, with both teams having chances to win the game. Parker mis-fired on the Senators' net after a promising one-on-one chance, whilst Gilfoyle then had to be at his best to deny a short-handed Sheffield with a fantastic sprawling save just seconds later.
With three minutes left on the clock, it was Nathan Britton who broke Lions hearts, converting a chance on the power play, capitalising on Adam Andrews being sent to the box for a holding the stick infringement.
Slawomir Kasprzak came away with a goal and a well-deserved MOTM award.
Despite coming away pointless from the weekend's action, Nottingham will have been buoyed by their show of strength, resilience and teamwork, when placed under extraordinary pressure and once they return to full-strength and the juniors can return to the line-up, the Lions will be much the stronger, after their difficult experiences over the past two days.
Nottingham now look to put the two defeats behind them and focus on winning maximum points against bottom-side Bradford Bulldogs, who are the visitors to the National Ice Centre next Sunday (30th November - 7.30pm fo). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Photographs courtesy of Ed Chappell - www.edchappell.com.
Craig Wallis 1+0, Stuart Parker 1+0, Slawomir Kasprzak 1+1, Ivo Dimitrijevs 0+2.
Period Scores: 1st 3-1, 2nd 0-1, 3rd 1-1.
Shots: 1st 21-11, 2nd 13-10, 3rd 14-14. Total 48-35.
Penalty Mins: 1st 4-4, 2nd 4-2, 3rd 2-4. Total 10-10.
Lions MOTM: Slawomir Kasprzak.