It was all-change during the summer months at the Lions, as no-fewer than sixteen players moved-on after the previous season’s valiant attempts to avoid the drop from Division One.

This exodus, along with head coach Matt Bradbury’s side facing their first ever season playing second-tier hockey, led many to believe this would be a season of regrouping and rebuilding at the National Ice Centre.

However, despite being unable to compete with the likes of Solihull and Deeside on a financial level, Bradbury had managed assemble a squad, containing a healthy mixture of youth and experience, who on their day were capable of being a match for any side in the division.

The Lions had managed to retain four of their top seven point-scorers from their previous campaign, holding on to top-scorer Joe Wightman as well as Gareth O’Flaherty, Michael Rose and Ben Wood.

Former Lions D-man Luke Thomas returned to the club as captain, netminders Sam Gospel and Dan Green both signed-up on a two-way deal with the Nottingham Panthers, whilst veteran forward Simon Hunt and American import Luke Branin were also added.

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Simon Hunt unleashes one of his “trademark piledrivers”.

The team were also buoyed by the emergence of promising youngsters such as Ollie Betteridge, Cameron Good, Joseph Steeples and Daniel Hazeldine from the club’s junior system.

The Lions headed to the seaside for their first game of the campaign as they took on Fylde Flyers on September 1st and took away a 7-4 win. An Ollie Betteridge hat-trick helped them overcome a 2-0 first period deficit as Nottingham struggled to familiarise themselves with the small ice surface at the Sub Zero Ice Rink early on.

Two week’s later the Lions’ met Hull Stingrays in their first home game of the season where Nottingham claimed a resounding 8-0 victory in a game which saw veteran Simon Hunt claim a brace and the Man of the Match award on his Lions debut.

This was followed up a week later with another shut-out at Blackburn Ice Arena with a 7-0 triumph over the Eagles. Gareth O’Flaherty, Ben Wood and Mikey Rose were among the goalscorers.

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Goal celebrations against the Blackburn Eagles

On the last day of the month, the Lions passed their first big test against one of their main promotion rivals, as four unanswered, first period goals, including a Joe Wightman hat-trick, helped them overcome the Deeside Dragons at the NIC by an 8-6 scoreline.

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Hat-Trick Hero: Joe Wightman against the Dragons.

That victory left them sitting pretty at the top of the table after their first four games, with a three-week break before they traveled to North Wales for the return fixture……

Tuesday, 09 April 2013.
Super User