Nottingham Lions 6 Hull Jets 5.
It was an entertaining an emotional night at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening, as veteran netminder Alan Levers made his last ever home appearance, helping the Nottingham Lions to victory in a thrilling 6-5 win over Hull Jets.
In what was the Lions’ final game of the regular season, Luke Branin secured his position as the team’s top goalscorer, netting four goals to bring his total to twenty this campaign, whilst youngster Dan Hazeldine also scored twice to finish second in the rankings, with fourteen goals.
Tears were then shed after the final buzzer, as Levers’ number one jersey was retired by the club, with the stalwart goalie preparing to leave the game, after twenty-four years in-between the pipes.
Nottingham were fresh from the previous night’s 4-0 road win over the Blackburn Eagles, with Levers and Ben Wood both returning to the line-up.
Forward Joe Wightman along with defensemen James Francis-Barrie and Cameron Good were all still absent, whilst Connor Glossop, Sam Illsley, Joe Gretton and Kieran Raynor were called up from the Under-18s.
Hull came into the game knowing a victory would seal fifth place in the Laidler Conference table and the final available play off semi-final spot.
An uneventful first period saw little for the bumper crowd at the NIC to get excited about, with Hazeldine’s ninth minute goal being the only highlight.
The game came alive after intermission, with Hazeldine doubling the Lions’ lead thirty seconds in before the Jets found a way back into the game via Raivis Sadinovs, three minutes later.
Some may have thought the game was as good as over, when Branin restored Nottingham’s two goal cushion on thirty-two minutes but the visitors, eager to avoid a winner takes all scenario against Widnes Wild next weekend, tied the game at three before the end of the period, thanks to goals from Jordan Fisher and Corey Stones.
The Lions began the third period in the worst possible fashion, conceding after just eighteen seconds, as Fisher’s second goal of the night put Hull in front for the first time in the game.
Things then went from bad to worse for Matt Bradbury’s side, when eight minutes later, Jamie Cobley broke away from a Nottingham power play to put the Jets 5-3 up, with a short-handed effort.
The Lions were now in real danger of not only losing their recent winning streak but also failing to give Levers a fitting home send-off but in a final, heart-stopping ten minutes of play, a gargantuan effort from Nottingham once again turned the game on its head, as Branin netted three more fantastic goals, to seal a memorable victory.
The American scored his second of the night on fifty minutes before sealing his hat-trick three minutes later, on the power play.
Branin then sent the home bench and crowd into raptures, with less than four minutes remaining, as he coolly put the Lions back in front.
Fittingly, it was Levers who had the final say on the games’ outcome, as he made a string of outstanding saves in the final three minutes, including a magnificent pad save with just one second to go, to prevent another Hull comeback and proving just why he has been such a valuable asset to the organisation during his many years at the club.
Nottingham now have three weeks to prepare for their play off semi-final against Coventry Blaze on Sunday 20th April, at Solihull Ice Rink (6.30pm). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Dan Hazledine 2+3, Luke Branin 4+0, Stephen Breisner 0+3, Slawomir Kasprzak 0+2, Kieran Raynor 0+1, Jack Baveystock 0+1, Ben Wood 0+1,
Period Scores: 1st 1-0, 2nd 2-3, 3rd 3-2.
Shots: 1st 15-4, 2nd 14-9, 3rd 20-11. Total: 49-24.
Penalty Mins: 1st 0-2, 2nd 0-0, 3rd 2-6. Total: 2-8.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Luke Branin.