Nottingham Lions 7 Coventry Blaze 4.
The Nottingham Lions moved up into the NIHL Laidler D2 play off positions with a 7-4 win over their Midlands rivals Coventry Blaze, in the big local derby clash at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
A hat-trick from Slawomir Kasprzak, along with goals from Ben Wood, Craig Wallis, Stuart Parker and Adam Andrews, lifted Nottingham into fourth place in the league standings and made it six wins from seven for Matt Bradbury's side.
Ben Wood opened the scoring for the Lions.
New signing, 33 year-old Warren Tait made his Nottingham debut just days after signing-up for the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign and a bumper NIC crowd, was there to welcome the former Sheffield Steeler, Cardiff Devil and GB international, into the Lions' den.
Top-scoring Latvian Ivo Dimitrijevs along with Reece Glossop and Ben Foster-Wilson made welcome returns to the line-up, having missed out on last weekend's impressive 7-1 hammering of the Deeside Dragons at the NIC.
Lee Holland and Christy Johnson-Brown were the only two senior players unavailable for selection, whilst Bradbury was unable to call on the club's talented juniors, as the Under-18s were on away on duty in Deeside.
Coventry were still smarting from their 7-4 home defeat to the Telford Tigers the previous night and were keen not to end their double-header weekend pointless but after five minutes they found themselves on the back-foot, when the Lions took the lead via a scrappy goal from Wood, who was able scramble the puck home through a mass of bodies, in front of the visitor's net.
Wallis then scored his third goal in two games on sixteen minutes, after well-worked move saw the d-man in the right place to fire the puck past a hapless Hayden Laverick in the Blaze goal.
Former GB international Warren Tait impressed on his Lions debut.
After the Blaze's last visit to the NIC back in October, where they were thrashed 10-3 by a determined Lions team, the visitors were looking to back into the game early in the second period and did so after just fifty seconds, thanks to Corey Goodison's low shot from the point.
Nottingham looked rattled after conceding so early in the period and netminder Tom Hovell then had to come to his team's rescue, making two fine saves in the following minutes after the Coventry goal.
The Lions soon restored their two-goal advantage however, when five minutes later, Parker's pin-point shot squeezed past Laverick's left arm, to give the veteran his sixteenth goal from twelve appearances.
Polish forward Kasprzak then scored Nottingham's fourth goal on twenty-eight minutes, leaving the Blaze with a mountain to climb to get back into the game but to their credit, the visitors clawed the score back to 4-3 just after the halfway mark, thanks to two quick goals from Arthur Brookes and Matthew Maurice.
Nottingham - Coventry derbies have the tendency to be bruising and bad-tempered affairs and in the final minute of the second, a mini brawl broke out in front of the Blaze net, with roughing penalties then dished out to Wallis and Brookes.
A scrappy final period went by without major incident for either side until six minutes from the end, when Andrews finished off a neat power play move from Tait and Parker, to give the Lions some much-needed breathing space.
Seconds later, Kasprzak then skillfully netted his second of the night on the power play, to make it 6-3.
Man Of The Match Slawomir Kasprzak celebrates one of his three goals.
The Blaze did claim a short-handed consolation goal with two minutes remaining through Maurice but it was too little, too late for the visitors, as Kasprzak completed his hat-trick on the power play with just over a minute left, sealing the Lions' progress up the league table, as well as securing the season head-to-head victory over their local rivals, with two wins and a draw from their three meetings.
The Lions now have an unprecedented three-week break from league action before they look to hit the ground running with a double-header against play off place challengers Widnes Wild, travelling to Silverblades Ice Rink on Saturday 31st January (5.30pm) before returning home for the following day's (Sunday 1st February) rematch at the NIC (7.30pm). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Photos courtesy of Peter McConnochie / Urban Scot Photography.
Ben Wood 1+1, Craig Wallis 1+1, Stuart Parker 1+3, Slawomir Kasprzak 3+0, Adam Andrews 1+1, Warren Tait 0+1, Ivo Dimitrijevs 0+3.
Period Scores: 1st 2-0, 2nd 2-3, 3rd 3-1.
Shots: 1st 10-6, 2nd 9-10, 3rd 15-6. Total 34-22.
Penalty Mins: 1st 6-0, 2nd 16-18, 3rd 6-8. Total 28-26.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Slawomir Kasprzak.