Nottingham Lions 3 Sheffield Senators 2
The Nottingham Lions claimed the local bragging rights in a hard-fought win over rivals Sheffield Senators, in their first fixture of 2014 at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
A feisty, unpredictable and competitive derby game was just what the doctor ordered for both sides’ players, coaches and supporters, as they looked to get their respective seasons back on track, after some uncharacteristic defeats towards the end of 2013.
After the two-week festive break, Matt Bradbury almost had a full roster available for selection, with key players Joe Wightman, Mikey Rose retuning to the line-up whilst Christy Johnson-Brown and James Francis-Barrie, who were missing for the Lions’ pre-Christmas defeat at Solihull were still out, along with Reece Glossop.
Youngsters Jordan Bloom, Hamish Hall, Connor Glossop, Luke Evans and Joe Gretton were also selected as Coach Bradbury looked to blood some of the clubs’ younger prospects in the new year.
And it was promising forward Bloom, who opened Nottingham’s account on the power play after seven minutes, when from the blue line, he managed to power the puck between the pads of Sheffield netminder Bob Browne.
Seven minutes later the visitors found their equaliser, courtesy of Luke Smith who capitalised on the Lions’ inability to clear their own zone, to fire home from close range.
Despite Nottingham having a five-on-three advantage for most of the opening five minutes of the second period, they failed to find the net and ironically fell behind on the power play themselves shortly afterwards, when Latvian Sergevs Jegorovs scored from the point on twenty-seven minutes, after Joseph Steeples was given a 2+2 for slashing.
However, the Lions were not to be denied the victory and coming out with renewed vigor in the final period, Connor Glossop tied the game at 2-2 inside the first three minutes.
Then, two minutes later, during another five-on-three power play opportunity, Rob Perks scored what proved to be the game winner in controversial circumstances, when he poked home the puck from under the nose of Browne, despite the referee’s whistle appearing to have been blown before Perks could make his play.
However, all Senators protests were waived away and the Birmingham-born forward had his eighth goal of the season and once again, proved why he is such a danger in front of his opponents’ net.
Play was held up briefly after Lions captain Luke Thomas left the ice, after taking a nasty hit against the boards, which resulted in the Zamboni being brought out to remove blood from the playing surface. Thankfully, Thomas would later return to the game after receiving treatment.
Lee Holland took a slashing penalty with just under three minutes remaining, which lead to some nervy moments in and around the Nottingham zone in the dying seconds but Lions goalie Alan Levers held firm to make sure the two-points went to the home side.
Despite securing the win, Matt Bradbury’s side still face a mammoth task to retain their status as champions, with the table-topping Solihull Barons still holding a commanding eight-point lead over the Lions and a five-point lead over the second-placed Deeside Dragons, who Nottingham now face next Sunday at Deeside Ice Rink (6.40pm).
Jordan Bloom 1+0, Connor Glossop 1+0, Robert Perks 1+0, Lee Holland 0+1, Mikey Rose 0+1, Dan Hazeldine 0+1, Joe Wightman 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-1, 2nd 0-1, 3rd 2-0.
Shots: 1st 11-13, 2nd 17-17, 3rd 15-12. Total: 43-42.
Penalty Mins: 1st 6-8, 2nd 8-8, 3rd 2-6. Total: 16-22.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Alan Levers.