Nottingham Lions 3 Sheffield Senators 5.
The Nottingham Lions could not overcome an unwavering Sheffield Senators side in a big-hitting and hot-tempered local derby, at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
Goals from Ivo Dimitrijevs, Kieran Raynor and Ben Wood were not enough for the Lions to claim the points which would have lifted them into fifth place in the NIHL Laidler D2 standings, in what was the last Nottingham -Sheffield derby for at least one season, with the Senators having already secured promotion to join their sister side the Spartans in Moralee D1 this September.
Ivo Dimitrijevs opened the scoring for the Lions, with his twenty-first of the season.
Stuart Parker returned to the line-up after missing out on the previous night's narrow 3-1 defeat in Sheffield but Elliot Perrin, who was injured midway through Saturday's game, joined Lee Holland, Ben Foster-Wilson and Christy Johnson-Brown on the absent list.
Promising Under-18s Connor Glossop, Hamish Hall, Joe Humphries, Luke Evans, Joe Gretton and Kieran Raynor also all kept their places after icing at Ice Sheffield, twenty-four hours previously.
The Lions were eager to take their first points off the Senators, after three narrow losses against the South Yorkshiremen this season but things did not start well for Nottingham, as Josh Gent put the visitors ahead after just two minutes, scoring his third goal of the weekend against the Lions.
It was 2-0 to Sheffield five minutes later, as Tom Humphries bagged a power play goal to give Matt Bradbury's side a big task to try and secure a positive outcome from the game, against a Senators side that had lost only once since the turn of the year.
To their credit, the Lions fought hard to bounced back with a power play goal of their own on fourteen minutes, as top-scorer Dimitrijevs netted his twenty-first goal of the season.
Another poor start to a period for Nottingham saw the Senators restore their two-goal lead just eighteen seconds after the restart, thanks to a second goal from Humphries.
Two minutes later, the Lions again came back with a goal, this time from the stick of youngster Raynor, who scored his second goal of the campaign, on the power play.
Hot prospect Kieran Raynor scored his second goal for the Lions.
Connor Glossop and Josh Gent then went toe-to-toe on twenty-five minutes with the Nottingham youngster hauling his opponent down to the ice, without any real punches connecting with their intended target.
Sheffield's Joel Aheran then restored his side's two-goal advantage on twenty-eight minutes, after finishing off a one-on-one situation with Tom Hovell and a fiery second period came to a close with the Lions needing a creative spark going forward if they were to rescue the game in the final twenty minutes.
Nottingham impressed in an entertaining third period, testing Senators custodian Mark Hartley on numerous occasions but they were hit by a suckerpunch on forty-eight minutes, when Aheran's short-handed goal gave his side some much-needed breathing space, with them now looking odds-on to complete a four-game season whitewash over the Lions.
A well-worked power play goal from Wood, with eight minutes remaining gave Nottingham some hope but Sheffield were able to see out the game without receiving any further damage, as a bench clearance with four seconds left in the game, left the match officials choosing to end the game early, after numerous fights broke out on the ice, for which no penalties were given for either side on the official gamesheet.
A chaotic bench clearance occured with just 3.9 second left in the game.
Thanks to Widnes Wild beating Hull Jets, the Lions now know they cannot finish lower than sixth in league standings, with fifth place still up for grabs next weekend. Although the current fifth-placed side Deeside Dragons, have the head-to-head advantage over Nottingham and a game in hand.
The Lions also now have the unenviable task of trying to try to halt league champions Solihull Barons' mammoth, season-long unbeaten run at the NIC next Sunday (29th March- 7.30pm), in what will be Nottingham's final game of their 2014/15 campaign. Ticket details for what is sure to be a season-ending, cracker in the Lions' den are available by clicking here.
Images are courtesy of Peter McConnachie / Urban Scot Photography.
Ivo Dimitrijevs 1+1, Kieran Raynor 1+0, Ben Wood 1+1, Stuart Parker 0+1, Craig Wallis 0+2.
Period Scores: 1st 1-2, 2nd 1-2, 3rd 1-1.
Shots: 1st 9-10, 2nd 11-13, 3rd 14-16. Total 34-39.
Penalty Mins: 1st 14-6, 2nd 22-10, 3rd 4-14. Total 40-30.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Ben Wood.