Blackburn Eagles 1 Nottingham Lions 9
The Nottingham Lions came away from Blackburn Arena with an emphatic victory over the Eagles in their first game of the new NIHL Laidler Conference season on Saturday evening.
The Lions were missing defencemen Chris Allen, Jamie Hovell, Daniel Hazeldine and the suspended Reece Glossop but were able to call-upon summer signings Neil Adams, Connor McNaughton and Robert Perks all of whom made their official Nottingham debuts.
They were joined on the Lions bench by new signings, Polish-born forward Slawomir Kasprzak and one of the stand-out players of the 2012/13 season American, Luke Branin, whose return to the team was confirmed just a few hours prior to the game.
Nottingham got off to a sluggish start and found it difficult to break the resolve of a Blackburn side that had conceded no fewer than twenty goals at home to their visitors last season.
New boy Kasprzak thought he had broken the deadlock after twelve minutes but the nets were ruled to have been off their moorings by the referee and the goal was struck off.
Two minutes later, the Lions did find themselves on the scoreboard courtesy of last season’s top scorer Joe Wightman, who made sure Nottingham ended the period a goal to the good.
Any fears Nottingham had of being on the end of shock result were firmly put to bed in the second period as the Lions stormed the Eagles net with seven goals without reply, including six in just seven minutes.
Kasprzak set things rolling with a debut effort with two minutes gone, before strikes from Christy Johnson-Brown (2), Joseph Steeples, Branin and power play goals from Mikey Rose and Wightman ensured their was no way back for the home side, who were struggling to clear the puck from their own zone.
Following on from excellent performances last season, Blackburn netminder Nick Saxton once again proved to be a thorn in Nottingham’s side, saving sixty-seven of Nottingham’s seventy-six shots, whilst in comparison, Lions’ goalie Alan Levers had a quiet night and was replaced by youngster Tom Hovell who gained some valuable senior ice time for the final twenty minutes.
Into the third, Perks helped himself to a debut goal within eighty seconds of the restart with goal number nine for the visitors.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Blackburn however, as with nine minutes left to play, Tom Murphy capitalised on some sloppy Nottingham play to a score much deserved Eagles consolation with a fine short-handed finish.
The final buzzer signalled an impressive start to the Lions’ campaign but Matt Bradbury’s men know much tougher challenges await them along the course of the season, starting next Sunday with a much anticipated home clash with local-rivals and many people’s tip for the league title – Solihull Barons.
Face off at the National Ice Centre is at 7.30pm Tickets are £5 for adults, whilst special discounted entry rates are available for students, pensioners, children and Panthers season ticket holders. Click here for ticket details.
A Lions Radio post-game interview with Head Coach Bradbury is now available to listen to by clicking here.
Joe Wightman 2+1, Slawomir Kasprzak 1+2, Christy Johnson-Brown 2+0, Joseph Steeples 1+0, Luke Branin 1+2, Michael Rose 1+1, Robert Perks 1+0, Neil Adams 0+3, Jack Baveystock 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 0-1, 2nd 0-7, 3rd 1-1.
Shots: 1st 2-29, 2nd 5-28, 3rd 8-19, Total 15-76.
Penalty Minutes: 1st 2-2, 2nd 6-2, 3rd 2-0, Total 10-4.
Lions MOTM: Robert Perks.