Nottingham Lions 2 Solihull Barons 5.
In what was their final game of their 2014/15 season, a gutsy Nottingham Lions side could not prevent another victory for the unbeaten league champions Solihull Barons, at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
Despite a hard-fought performance and goals from Ben Wood, Connor Glossop, the Lions could not halt the seeminly unstoppable Solihull juggernaut from completing a full-season whitewash over every side in NIHL Laidler D2.
Ivo Dimitrijevs tussles with Solihull's Perry Doyle.
With a fifth-placed finish in the league standings already out of Nottingham's reach, after Deeside Dragons's win over Blackburn Eagles the previous night, the Lions were playing for local pride, as they faced an indomitable Barons side that had not dropped a single point all season.
Aside from the absence of veteran forward Stuart Parker, Matt Bradbury's side remained unchanged from last Sunday's narrow 5-3 home defeat to the Sheffield Senators, with young talents Connor Glossop, Hamish Hall, Joe Humphries, Luke Evans, Joe Gretton and Kieran Raynor, once again featuring, to boost Bradbury's roster options.
Solihull were also this season's top goalscorers, averaging over nine goals a game and it didn't take them to show Nottingham why that was, as former Lion Tom Soar put the visitors in front, with just three minutes gone.
Eight minutes later it was two, as the Barons' Joe Henry doubled his side's advantage, with the Lions now facing a daunting task to overcome their Midlands rivals, having handed them an early double boost.
To their credit, Nottingham continued to battle hard and claimed their just reward with one minute left in the period, when Ben Wood neatly finished off a well-worked power play goal to put the Lions right back in the game just ahead of the buzzer.
Thirty seconds later, Nottingham thought they had got their equaliser, only for it to be struck off for high sticks but the Lions did get their game-tying goal two minutes after the restart, when Connor Glossop's low shot managed to sneak between the legs of Solihull goalie Josh Nicholls.
Connor Glossop finished on fourteen goals for the season.
An entertaining second period continued with some fast, flowing, end-to-end hockey from both sides and Nicholls and Nottingham goalie Warren Gilfoyle were both kept very busy, making some excellent saves to keep the scores down.
However, it was Gilfoyle who was next to beaten, as the Barons netted a third on the half-hour mark, courtesy of Richard Slater and that was quickly followed by a fourth, as Swede Niklas Ottosson restored his side's two-goal advantage.
Soar bagged his second of the night to make it 5-2 on thirty-eight minutes, leaving the Lions hanging onto the game by a thread, with a huge third period now required from Bradbury's men, if they were to salvage anything from the game.
Warren Tait picked up the Lions' 'Man Of The Match' award.
Perahps rather understandably, a lacklustre final period followed, with Solihull clearly taking their foot off the gas in preparation for next weekend's play offs, whilst the Lions seemed to already have one eye on their summer break and looked fairly content to work hard at keeping the Barons at bay and trying to chip away at the three-goal deficit.
2014/15 may not have been a season to remember for Matt Bradbury's side but it was always going to be a year of transition at the NIC and with so many junior players having been introduced to senior hockey throughout the campaign, Nottingham will be looking to reap the benefits of their youth policy in future seasons to come.
This season's top points scorer accolade went to veteran Stuart Parker, with forty-nine points (nineteen goals, thirty assists) from nineteen appearances, whist Latvian Ivo Dimitrijevs finished as top goalscorer, netting twenty-one goals in thirty-one appearances.
A long summer break now awaits the Lions before the start of their 2015/16 NIHL Laidler D2 campaign, which begins in September.
Photos are courtesy of Peter McConnachie / Urban Scot Photography.
Ben Wood 1+0, Connor Glossop 1+0, Craig Wallis 0+1, Warren Tait 0+1, Hamish Hall 0+1, Luke Thomas 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-2, 2nd 1-3, 3rd 0-0.
Shots: 1st 9-20, 2nd 8-16, 3rd 9-10. Total 26-46.
Penalty Mins: 1st 0-2, 2nd 0-6, 3rd 0-2. Total 0-10.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Warren Tait.