Solihull Barons 1 Nottingham Lions 2

Nottingham Lions strengthened their lead at the top of the league with a tough win in Solihull on Sunday evening.

The Lions travelled south for a top of the table clash missing key players Simon Hunt, Jose Leon and Christy Johnson-Brown, making the short trip to the West Midlands looking even trickier. However, they came out with the two points, mainly thanks to defensive frailties from their hosts.

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Luke Thomas gets the better of former teammate Neil Adams. Photo – James Morton.

This fixture was always going to be a close game with both sides having to make the most of their chances and possession. The home side were the first to do this with a goal from Jake Larkin inside two and half minutes, adding to the already hostile atmosphere and putting the Lions, even more so, up against it.

Ollie Betteridge then took a two-minute high-sticking minor at 10.23 after Lions failed to score on a powerplay a few minutes before. However, a turnover in the neutral zone from assistant captain Gareth O’Flaherty saw the Barons netminder David Roxburgh make an absolute howler, gifting O’Flaherty an empty net to slot away the equaliser with a short-handed goal.

As the first period started to count down towards the interval with less than thirty seconds remaining, Luke Branin gave the visitors the lead from what appeared to be an impossible angle.

In second period the physical game that everyone was expecting began with both sides having six penalty minutes each. Nottingham’s players also appeared to be a little rattled by the hostile home crowd. Reece Glossop was an example of that as he accidentally hit his stick against the netting that separated the crowd from the players, much to the anger of the Solihull support.

In fact, at the buzzer at the end of the period former Solihull player Luke Thomas and Neil Adams exchanged words, after it appeared the Lions captain had been caught on the chin by Adams’ stick.

The third period again didn’t see any further goals, mainly due to some fine goalkeeping from Sam Gospel who yet again looked solid in the Lions goal making some crucial saves. One of these was a great stop right on the goal line after the puck managed to creep under his pads.

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Sam Gospel deals with another of the 71 shots he faced. Photo – James Morton.

The sin bin was continued to be busy in the final period with both sides having players spending eight minutes in their own boxes. However, six of Solihull’s minutes came from Phil Lee, who at 52.21 received two minutes for cross-checking on Matt Greaves which resulted in both players grappling and throwing a few punches and left both players receiving 2+2 penalties for roughing.

At 56.20 Michael Rose then went into the sin bin for a two minute slashing minor giving Solihull a powerplay with little time left but some wonderful saves from Gospel and great defensive work on the penalty kill the Lions managed to keep hold of their one goal lead.

Solihull’s onslaught never showed any sign of stopping with the home side continuing to try and find the equalising goal. However, every time the Lions managed to touch the puck they hit it out of their zone to centre ice or beyond, resulting in the Barons being unable to pull Roxburgh and stopping the hosts from keeping up any momentum.

As the final buzzer went massive cheers from the away bench were to be heard, especially from Lions man of the match Luke Thomas, meaning he was able to get one over on his former club and his own father Richard, who still manages the Barons.

LionsTV post-game interviews with players and coaches from both teams will be available to view here in the next 24 hours…..

Next up for Nottingham is a home fixture against local rivals Sheffield Senators, giving the Lions another chance to extend their lead at the top of the NIHL North Division 2 as they look to go straight back up to Division 1 at the first time of asking.

Ticket details for next Sunday’s game at the National Ice Centre can be found here.

Game Stats:
Luke Branin 1+0, Joe Wightman 0+1, Gareth O’Flaherty 1+1.
Period Scores 1st 1-2, 2nd 0-0, 3rd 0-0.
Period Shots – 1st 21-11, 2nd 27-9, 3rd 23-8. Total 71-28.
Penalty Minutes – 1st 2-4, 2nd 6-6, 3rd 8-8. Total 16-18.
Lions MOTM – Luke Thomas.
Monday, 10 December 2012.
Super User