Solihull Barons 2 Nottingham Lions 3
The Nottingham Lions claimed both points on offer, with a narrow, hard-fought win over the Barons at Solihull Ice Arena on Sunday night.
Solihull had not lost a game at their compact Hobs Moat Road rink since December last year, which coincidentally was also at the hands of the Lions and it was the visitors who triumphed again, despite being out-shot 70-31 by their hosts.
Neil Adams, Robert Perks and Connor McNaughton were all selected to face their former club, whilst young sixteen year-old forward Hamish Hall was brought in as a late replacement for Joe Wightman, who missed out with the flu.
Captain Luke Thomas was also unavailable for selection after picking up a match penalty in last Sunday’s win over Coventry.
The Lions always expect a physical encounter when facing the Barons and the first period certainly lived up to their expectations, with Nottingham on the end of some crunching hits from the home side.
Despite this, the period remained close, with Lions goalie Alan Levers looking solid once again, putting in what has now become just an normal night’s performance for the reliable backstopper.
Dan Hazeldine looked odds on to put the visitors in front after he found himself with a one-on-one situation after eleven minutes but the youngster held on to the puck for a split-second too long and was dispossessed at the vital moment by a desperate Solihull defender, leaving him unable to get a shot away.
Seconds later, Nottingham did find their opening goal much to Neil Adams’ delight, as he netted his first of the season against his previous employers.
With just the one goal separating the two sides, a cagey but entertaining first few minutes of the second period went by without major incident until Michael Rodger found an equaliser for the Barons on the power play, after twenty-nine minutes.
This then sparked a string of penalties for Solihull, who found themselves trying to kill a prolonged 5-on-3 power play after Rodger, Perry Doyle, Joe Henry and Ed Slater were all sent to the penalty box in quick succession.
The Barons’ three-man special team could only hold on for so long however, as defenseman Craig Wallis put the Lions back in front, with his first goal of the season after thirty-six minutes.
Just ten seconds later, Wallis added his second of the night with a shot from the red line, which struck the crossbar before bouncing down behind Solihull keeper Josh Nicholls.
Much debate and confusion followed as to whether the puck had crossed the line but after a long discussion between the officials behind Nicholls’ net, they decided to award the goal, giving Matt Bradbury’s men some vital breathing space going into the final period.
The Lions had their tails up in the third, whilst the Barons made it clear they were not going down to their first home defeat of the season without a fight.
Both sides continued to trade blows, with Solihull looking the more likely to score but it was only with two minutes left on the clock they finally found a way past Levers for their second goal, courtesy of Richard Slater.
A frantic final ninety seconds then followed, with Nottingham throwing everything behind the puck to prevent a Barons’ equaliser but even after pulling Nicholls for an extra skater, Solihull could not force their way through to goal and the Lions hung on for a nail-biting victory.
League new-boys Widnes Wild now provide the next opposition for Nottingham, when they visit the National Ice Centre next Sunday evening (7.30pm). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
A post-game Lions Radio interview with Head Coach Matt Bradbury can now be heard by clicking here.
Neil Adams 1+1, Craig Wallis 2+0. Luke Branin 0+2, Mikey Rose 0+1, Dan Hazeldine 0+1, Ben Wood 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 0-1, 2nd 1-2, 3rd 1-0.
Shots: 1st 18-9, 2nd 33-11, 3rd 19-11. Total: 70-31.
Penalty Mins: 1st 12-6, 2nd 8-14, 3rd 2-2. Total: 22-22.
Lions MOTM: Neil Adams.