Solihull Barons 7 Nottingham Lions 1
A depleted Nottingham Lions side, were emphatically beaten by league leaders Solihull Barons at Solihull Ice Rink, on Sunday evening, in their final game of 2013.
Solihull were currently in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. They also came into the Midlands-derby fixture on the back of consecutive victories over second-placed, Deeside Dragons and a 7-2 win in Blackburn, the previous night.
The Lions were under no illusion at the size of their task, knowing they were coming up against the league’s best attack and defence (116 goals scored – 33 conceded) but were buoyed by the fact that they have already beaten the Barons, home and away this season.
Nottingham were missing key players including Joe Wightman, Mikey Rose, Christy Johnson-Brown and James Francis-Barrie but did welcome back Head Coach Matt Bradbury, defensemen Jack Baveystock and Cameron Good, forward Stephen Breisner and Assistant Coach Simon Hopkins, from GB duties at the 2013 World University Winter Games in Trentino, Italy
A surprisingly open and end-to-end first period began under a furious pace, with netminders Sam Hewitt and Alan Levers showing some fine form, with Hewitt stopping two early breakaway efforts from the Lions.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring after seven minutes, when Slovakian Tomas Janak’s powerful shot from the right wing was too much for Levers to keep out.
The Lions responded nine minutes later on the power play, when Pole Slawomir Kasprzak was allowed plenty of space an time to slot home the equaliser, with just two seconds remaining on a Perry Doyle interference penalty.
However, the Barons were back in front again just a minute later, when a fresh from the penalty box Doyle found the net on the power play, after Lee Holland was penalised for tripping.
A poor second period for Nottingham began with a third Solihull goal just thirty-three seconds after the restart, when Janak scored his second of the night.
The Barons then set out their stall and were almost camped out in the Nottingham zone for the following ten minutes. However, they struggled to find a way past Levers and only managed to find a fourth goal courtesy of Ryan Selwood, after Holland returned to the box, this time for cross-checking.
The visitors continued to look lacklustre going forward, with attacking opportunities continuing to be few an far between and with just under two minutes remaining, Richard Slater ended a period to forget for the Lions, when he made the score 5-1, giving Nottingham an almost insurmountable task to get back into the game, in the final twenty minutes.
It was deja vu at the beginning of the third, as the Lions again conceded an early goal, Joe Henry scoring inside the first minute.
Nottingham continued to show fighting spirit however, refusing to give in to their local rivals but Solihull were just too strong on the night and completed their scoring on forty-eight minutes, thanks to Slater’s second goal of the game.
Young netminder Tom Hovell replaced the battle-scarred Levers for the final ten minutes of the fixture and also impressed between the pipes, making sure no more damage could be inflicted on the scorecard, by saving all of the eleven shots aimed at him.
Matt Bradbury’s men now look forward to a two-week festive break before they return to action on Sunday 5th January, with a local derby against Sheffield Senators at the National Ice Centre (7.30pm). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Slawomir Kasprzak 1+0.
Period Scores: 1st 2-1, 2nd 3-0, 3rd 2-0.
Shots: 1st 31-7, 2nd 20-3, 3rd 21-6. Total: 72-16.
Penalty Mins: 1st 4-6, 2nd 0-2, 3rd 4-2. Total: 8-10.
Lions MOTM: Luke Branin.