Sutton Sting 7 Nottingham Lions 4
Sutton Sting gained the upper hand in today’s ENL relegation playoff first leg with a deserved victory over the Lions at Ice Sheffield, out-shooting them 63-35 in the process.
The Lions will now have to overturn a three-goal deficit tomorrow at the National Ice Centre if they are to avoid the drop into ENL 2 North.
Sutton got off to a great start with Richie Oliver weaving his way around the Lions defence to fire home with less that four minutes gone. Nottingham responded immediately with Jack Clarkson levelling matters.
The Sting dominated much of the possession in the first period and the Lions rode their luck at times, especially after Ben Lowe’s wrist-shot crashed against the metalwork with fifteen minutes on the clock.
Five minutes into the second, Thomas Jeffery made the most of a hole in the Nottingham’s defence to put Sutton back in the lead but for the second time, Jack Clarkson tied up the game on the powerplay, spotting a gap and slotting past Sting goalie Alex Birch.
The Lions then took the lead with another powerplay goal from Joe Wightman. It was justice for Wightman as Andrew Offord was sent to the box for tripping the forward, who was through on his way to the net seconds earlier.
However, Nottingham’s hold on the game looked destined to be relinquished as Sutton once again began to dominate the play with the Lions goaltender Richard Griffiths pulling off a number of fine saves within the space of three or four minutes before he was finally beaten by Shaun Ashton on 35 minutes.
Two more goals quickly followed, both scored by Ben Lowe, as the Sting put themselves firmly in the driving seat going into the third.
A cagey start to the final period from both sides saw little action until Paul Lane grabbed Sutton’s sixth goal with ten minutes remaining, before Nicky Balchin rattled the home side’s post two minutes later.
Joe Wightman scored his second of the night with four minutes left to make it a two-goal game but the Sting restored their three-goal advantage in the dying seconds through Shaun Ashton.
After the game, a still upbeat Lions head coach, Matt Bradbury spoke to nottinghamlions.co.uk saying:
“Personally, I’d have been quite happy to come out of here with a two-goal deficit but unfortunately that last goal went in and I don’t think we deserved a three goal one.”
“The worst thing that happened to us in the game was going 3-2 up – our game changed, they stepped it up and we didn’t. Sutton had all of their big game players turn up whilst we had four players turn up tonight and that just can’t happen and must be rectified.”
“We’ve very quickly analysed where the problem areas were tonight and it’s our jobs as the coaches and players to take a lead and put things right.”
“Not playing for nine weeks hasn’t helped at all but now we’ve got to get our game heads on for sixty minutes – It’s only a goal a period – that’s all it is and it’s key that we’re first to the puck tomorrow and play the way we know we can play.”
“We need the support from the people of Nottingham, we need people to come down, cheer us on and get behind the lads because this tie is far from over.”
Tickets for tomorrow’s big clash are still available to buy from the Arena Box Office. We strongly recommend you purchase in advance using the hotline, thus avoiding any possible queues on the day.
Children (Under 16) & OAP’s £3.00
Students (with NUS Card) £2.50
Panthers Season Ticket Holders (must show Panthers Season Ticket) £3.00
Tickets are available in advance from the Arena Box Office or via the Arena Ticket Hotline – 0843 373 3000.
Jack Clarkson 2+1, Joe Wightman 2+1, Chris Colegate 0+3, Ciaran Quinn 0+2
Period Scores: 1st 1-1, 2nd 4-2, 3rd 2-1.
Lions MOTM – Jack Clarkson.