The Nottingham Lions held their nerve in a tense final period at the Solihull Ice Rink that saw them let a three-goal lead slip before grabbing the winner, putting their first points on the board for the campaign and moving themselves off the bottom of the table.
By the end of the first period the travelling Lions supporters were in dream land after seeing their side put three in the goal tally by the end of the first period. Joe Humphries was the first to put his name on the score sheet when he scored past Brittle off the assists of Jakub Pniok and Jamie Hovell at 11.04. Their one goal advantage only stood for four minutes when, after Marcus Maynard took a 2+2+10 for holding, roughing and misconduct, Marc Levers found the twine on the powerplay at 15.28. He was assisted by Cameron Pywell who would go on to have a multi-point night, and Joe Humphries who was now only a fight away from a Gordie Howe hat-trick (he wouldn’t complete it).
No sooner was it 2-0 it was 3-0. Just a minute and a half later at 16.52 Ruskin Hughes put the puck home from Jakub Pniok’s second assist of the evening and the Lions went in at the end of the first period in an unprecedented position so far this campaign, leading by three goals to nil.
END OF THE FIRST PERIOD: SOLIHULL BARONS 0 – 3 NOTTINGHAM LIONS
Whatever the Head Coach of the Barons said to his players in that first intermission clearly motivated his side to find their way back into the contest as after only 35 seconds of the second period, the lead was back to just a single goal. Niklas Ottosson scored his first of the evening unassisted at 20.20 before scoring his second just fifteen seconds later from the assist of David Rodgers.
The Lions however we not to be downhearted and showed the determination and willingness to keep on battling that they have shown all season long. Despite the quick-fire double against them they were quick to turn the momentum back in their favour when Ondrej Pniok restored the two-goal advantage from Ruskin Hughes’ assist at 22.52.
In this back and forth game it was the Barons who would once again reduce the deficit to just one at 25.12 when Edward Eaton fired past Hovell form Josh Bruce’s assist and the home side would find themselves level when Ottosson finished his hat-trick with five and a half minutes of the period remaining from the assists of Thomas Soar and Luke Brittle. After going in at the end of the first three goals to the good, the Lions returned to the locker room at the end of the second tied at four. The game was on a knife edge once more.
END OF THE SECOND PERIOD: SOLIHULL BARONS 4 – 4 NOTTINGHAM LIONS
The Lions had been in this position several times in the early stages of the campaign and knew how difficult the final period would be. The nerves would increase as the clock ticked closer to the end of the game and these were not helped when Luke Thomas took two minutes for slashing early on at 44.40. The first minute was successfully killed off and then cancelled out when Solihull took a bench penalty for having too many men on the ice at 45.28. That penalty came and went, twelve and a half minutes remained.
Then came what would prove to be the game winning goal that the Lions had been so desperately craving for the past seven matches. Cameron Pywell and Ruskin Hughes providing the assists for Richard Slater to find a way past Daniel Brittle at 49.42. The Lions in the lead once more, just over ten minutes to go.
The Lions had come so close before and not come away from the contest with anything to show for it and as the minutes ticked by the anticipation became greater and greater. They stayed out of the box but more importantly kept the puck out of their net. Into the final minute and Matt Bradbury calls a timeout for some last words of encouragement and a chance for a rest before the final push to the final buzzer. They were being outshot but had the lead on the scoreboard and when Solihull pulled Brittle with 24 seconds to go, the Lions knew they were only seconds away from their first win of the season.
The empty net goal never came but crucially the puck never found its way into Tom Hovell’s net either and the Lions would create a little piece of history for themselves, claiming their first win in the second tier of British ice hockey. The win moves them off the bottom of the table ahead of their visit to local rivals Sheffield next Sunday evening, and Head Coach Matt Bradbury will be hoping that this is just the beginning of the road for his side. Tom Hovell finished with a save percentage of 91.84% from his 49 shots faced and walked away with the man of the match award for his efforts.
END OF THE THIRD PERIOD: SOLIHULL BARONS 4 – 5 NOTTINGHAM LIONS
Click here to listen to Lions Head Coach Matt Bradbury speaking to Lions Radio after the game.