Hull Jets 0 Nottingham Lions 1.
The Nottingham Lions got off to a winning start in the first game of their double-header, road-trip weekend.
A solitary first period goal from Luke Branin was enough to secure the two points, in the narrowest of victories over Hull Jets at Hull Arena, on Saturday evening.
Fourth-placed Lions, knew a win would go a long way in deciding whether they achieved a play-off berth come March, with the Jets snapping at their heels just behind them in fifth.
Nottingham came into the game buoyed by last weekend's morale-boosting 6-2 victory over Deeside but were also well aware that Hull hasn't always been a happy hunting ground for them in recent years.
The Lions lost their unbeaten record in Hull last season, losing by a 5-3 scoreline back in November 2012 and this season, managed to salvage a point right of the end of the game , when Rob Perks snatched an equaliser with eighteen seconds remaining, in a thrilling 4-4 tie, back in September.
Perks, Christy Johnson-Brown, Slawomir Kasprzak, Joe Wightman and Cameron Good all did not travel but head coach Matt Bradbury was able to call on promising junior forward Connor Glossop.
It took Nottingham just three minutes to open the scoring, when newly appointed assistant captain Luke Branin netted his twelfth of the season.
The American’s strike proved to be the last of the goal action in the first period, the Jets and the Lions both continued to exchange shots but failed to cause too many problems for Jack Dalby and Alan Levers in their respective goals.
Another tight twenty minutes was to follow and again, both sides continued to struggle in front of goal.
Despite the Lions’ domination for large parts of the period and a one minute thirty-seven second, five-on-three advantage towards the end of the period, Nottingham failed to make their chances count and left the game finely balanced going into the third period.
As the clocked ticked down in the final period, Hull became increasingly desperate to find an equaliser and with just under three minutes remaining Dan Hazeldine took a two-minute illegal equipment penalty, after making a play whilst still holding his netminder’s wayward stick.
This was the cue for the Jets to pull Dalby and bombard Levers’ net with shots and bodies in the dying seconds of the game, one shot agonisingly hit the post, whilst Levers continued to impressively block every piece of rubber which came his way, until his hosts had run out of ideas and time.
Overall, it was an outstanding team performance from Bradbury’s team, their ‘never say die’ attitude, helped along by the heroics of Levers, made sure Nottingham secured their first shut out of the season and placed more distance between themselves and their play off qualification rivals.
The Lions’ thoughts now quickly turn to the possibility of a four-point weekend and tomorrow lunchtime’s, local derby with Sheffield Senators at Ice Sheffield (1.30pm).
The Senators are still waiting for their first win over Nottingham and will be looking to improve considerably on last November's performance, which saw the Lions ease to a comfortable 7-2 victory, helped along by two, early Johnson-Brown strikes.
Luke Branin 1+0, Connor Glossop 0+1, Lee Holland 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 0-1, 2nd 0-0, 3rd 0-0.
Shots: 1st 8-9, 2nd 10-15, 3rd 24-12. Total: 42-36.
Penalty Mins: 1st 4-16, 2nd 6-0, 3rd 4-10. Total: 14-26.
Lions MOTM: Alan Levers.