Nottingham Lions 15 Blackburn Eagles 0.
The Nottingham Lions were crowned champions of the NIHL Division Two North on Sunday evening thanks to a resounding victory at home against the Blackburn Eagles.
Nottingham took all the spoils in a triumphant night at the National Ice Centre as they enjoyed a massive win in front of a larger than usual home crowd. It leaves them five points clear of second placed Solihull Barons with a total of 36.
The Lions came out playing at full intensity – an unusually high scoring first period was the result. Daniel Hazeldine was the first to net one with help from Elliott Perrin and Stuart Parker on the assists.
Less than 40 seconds later veteran Simon Hunt got on the score sheet and then Parker was involved again in the third goal in as many minutes as Nottingham took advantage of the power play opportunity.
The Lions’ dominance continued throughout the rest of the period as the Eagles, who have failed to register any points this season, had no answer to the onslaught of attacking play from Nottingham. In fact, net minder Alan Levers only had to make three stops in 20 minutes.
Just before the 12th minute, Hazeldine scored his second and Michael Rose made it six without reply less than a minute later.
Nottingham then saw fit to toy with their opponents for the next five minutes, biding their time until Hunt flicked the puck into the roof of the net just before the break for his hat-trick.
The second period was a less eventful affair, with Matt Greaves scoring in the 25th minute and Hunt getting yet another goal six minutes after – his eighth of the season. Again Levers and Sam Gospel only had seven shots to deal with in the entire period.
It seemed that Nottingham were happy to defend their lead and were not desperate to increase it, although they did manage 18 shots at the Blackburn goal in total.
While the period didn’t produce many goals, it did yield the most penalty minutes in the game. Blackburn accrued 26, clearly frustrated at their lack of possession and goal scoring opportunities.
However, Nottingham did their fair share of roughing, with Hunt relishing the chance to get in the face of a few of the Eagles players. However, it was Cameron Good who racked up a 10 minute penalty in the 37th minute for incitement.
The final period produced similar results to the first. Ryan Rathbone opened up the scoring for Nottingham this time after 45 minutes, with assists from Hunt and Hazeldine.
The Lions then netted twice in the following five minutes courtesy of Jospeh Steeples and Parker respectively – it was his sixth goal in seven games for Nottingham.
Rose got his second goal of the night and fifteenth of the season with little more than five minutes left to go – the league title looked a certainty at this point with no way back for Blackburn.
The Lions could have been excused for relaxing a little but they stayed focused until the very end and thumped in two more to close out the match in style. The goals came from American Luke Branin and Gareth O’Flaherty respectively.
As the buzzer rang to signal the end of the game the whole team skated out on to the ice to celebrate together and the fans cheered on as the champagne flowed. Blackburn could only look on with forlorn faces as they had no answer to Nottingham’s relentless form in front of goal.
Sunday evening was the culmination of a fantastic season for the club, which has seen some new faces establish themselves in the team and some old faces return to the fold in what was always a promotion campaign.
Quality performances from both individuals and the team has ensured Matt Bradbury’s men have bounced straight back after last season’s unfortunate relegation. Despite a couple of bumpy patches, the Lions have looked unstoppable on the ice and can look forward to playing Division One hockey come September.
LionsTV goal highlights, post-game interviews and celebrations will be available to view in the next 24 hours by clicking here.
While Nottingham are now officially league champions, they still have three games left this season. The first of them is at home to last Saturday’s opponents Fylde Flyers with face off at 19:15. Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Luke Thomas 0+4, Daniel Hazeldine 2+2, Stuart Parker 2+4, Gareth O’Flaherty 1+2, Michael Rose 2+3, Simon Hunt 4+2, Luke Branin 1+2, Christy Johnson-Brown 0+1, Cameron Good 0+2, Ryan Rathbone 1+2, Matt Greaves 1+0, Elliott Perrin 0+2, Joseph Steeples 1+0.
Period Scores: 1st 7-0, 2nd 2-0, 3rd 6-0.
Penalty Minutes: 1st 2-6, 2nd 16-26, 3rd 4-2. Overall 22-34.
Shots: 1st 25-3, 2nd 18-7, 3rd 24-3. Overall 67-13.
Lions MOTM (Sponsored by the Castle Inn): Simon Hunt.