Tonight we welcome to the National Ice Centre the high flying Blackburn Eagles who, to date, have a 100% record in the Laidler Conference with six wins to their credit.
Along the way they have beaten the pre season favourites the Widnes Wild at Widnes last Sunday in a tight 3-5 game.
Only a few seasons ago the Eagles were struggling against a number of teams and took some quite heavy defeats but season by season they have continued to build and now present as a formidable force at this level within the NIHL.
This season they have acquired some strong additions to the squad that took them to the end of season play offs in 2015/16 with player and Head Coach Scott Barnett bringing in Chris Arnone from the Div 1 team the Blackburn Hawks and the most recent acquisition of import Michael Fico from Widnes Wild. The Eagles now fly with two imports and an impressive British line up have a team pushing for Laidler Conference honours this season.
Head Coach Matt Bradbury has been impressed by the rise of success from the Eagles - "Without the driving force of Barney and the commitment of his management team the Eagles wouldn't be where they are today. We had the conversation a couple of years amongst our coaching staff and agreed that give them some time and this Eagles team will be well and truly pushing for honours."
Last season saw the Blackburn Eagles finish in 4th place behind the Lions in 3rd but all of that season saw these two running neck and neck right up to the final games where the Lions just edged the Eagles out, but both progressed to the end of season finals weekend.
The Eagles come to Nottingham confident of reversing last seasons fortunes and on present showing they have the resources available to make that happen and it will be up to the Lions to come out of the blocks ready for a rare old battle for dominance in this game and for those to come over the 2016/17 campaign.
The Lions had a weekend off following their 6-4 win over the Altrincham Aces and had time to reflect on that game where a rather slow start provided the Aces with opportunities they would not have normally been given and they took an early advantage. The game really turned in the second period and from thereon in the Lions took a hold on the game limiting their opponents
chances and claiming a solid workmanlike win.
Bradbury concluded "Tonights game is going to be a big challenge, but I expect a good effort from the boys, we've been working hard in training over the past weeks - I like how our team is coming together, spirits are high and I look forward to pushing the Eagles all the way. All in all it should make for an entertaining game."
Any Panthers or Belfast fans requiring additional ice hockey action on Sunday night after the Belfast game will be most welcome next door in the Olympic Rink, face off is at 7.30pm.