Solihull Barons 7 Nottingham Lions 2.
A battling Nottingham Lions side came away from the West Midlands with nothing to show for their endeavours, following a 7-2 defeat to unbeaten league leaders Solihull Barons, at the Solihull Ice Rink on Sunday evening.
Ivo Dimitrijevs netted his 17th goal of the season.
In what was almost certainly the Lions' toughest task of the season so far, facing the meanest offence and defence in the division, goals from Ivo Dimitrijevs and Warren Tait could not stop the Barons juggernaut rolling relentlessly towards the NIHL Laidler D2 league title.
The result was not helped by the Lions' limited manpower on the ice, with head coach Matt Bradbury unable to call upon the missing Christy Johnson-Brown, along with the suspended trio of Luke Thomas, Stuart Parker and Reece Glossop.
The large and talented pool of Under-18 players were also not at Bradbury's disposal, due to a home engagement against Hull but youngsters Ilija Kolosnicins and Tyler Poole, who both recently turned sixteen, dressed for the encounter and were given their first taste of senior hockey.
In the only previous meeting between the two sides this season, the Lions found themselves on the wrong end of 9-3 scoreline at Hobs Moat Road and Nottingham were hoping for a much tighter affair this time around and despite being under almost constant pressure in the first period, they succeeded in keeping things tight at the back with Richard Slater managing the only Barons goal, with a power play strike after six minutes.
Sixteen year-old Ilija Kolosnicins impressd on his senior debut.
The Barons have looked unstoppable in their quest for the league title and promotion to Moralee D1 during this campaign, having yet to drop a single point from their twenty-two games and they looked to have put another game out of their opponent's reach twelve minutes into the second period, thanks to further goals from Ryan Selwood and Joe Henry.
Selwood was then given a 2 + 10 + Game for boarding just a minute after the third goal and five minutes later the Lions found a way back into the match, courtesy of a quick, unassisted wrist-shot from Latvian forward Dimitrijevs.
However, Nottingham's hopes of clawing their way back into the game were quickly shattered, as Henry's second goal of the night restored Solihull's three-goal advantage, with less than a minute remaining before the second intermission, leaving the Lions with an almost unsurmountable task to try and turn the game around in the final period.
Nottingham then got off to the worst possible start as they conceded in the opening minute of the third, with Tomas Janak's effort signalling a change in netminding duties, as Tom Hovell replaced Warren Gilfoyle in between the pipes.
To their credit, Matt Bradbury's boys never gave up and made it 5-2 on forty-nine minutes, thanks to former GB international Tait's first goal in Lions colours.
Warren Tait celebrates scoring his first goal in a Lions jersey.
Nottingham then had further chances to score, including a golden one-on-one opportunity from a spinning Slawomir Kasprzak, which was blocked by the Barons' goalie Josh Nicholls but it was the high-flying hosts who had the final say in the game with two more goals, courtesy of a late brace from former Lion Thomas Soar.
Despite suffering their third defeat in as many games, the Lions remain in sixth position in the standings, three points behind fourth-placed Widnes and two points behind fifth-placed Hull, with a game in hand over both of their promotion rivals but with six of Nottingham's remaining nine league games being against the top-three teams team in the league, Bradbury''s side know they have a huge task ahead of them, if they are to finish inside the in promotion and play off places.
The Lions now have to quickly prepare for another tough weekend, as a visit to second-placed Telford Tigers awaits on the evening of Saturday 14th February (5.30pm) before the Barons make their first trip of the season to the National Ice Centre, on Sunday 15th (7.30pm). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Ivo Dimitrijevs 1+1, Warren Tait 1+0, Adam Andrews 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-0, 2nd 3-1, 3rd 3-1.
Shots: 1st 23-4, 2nd 13-10, 3rd 20-13. Total 56-27.
Penalty Minutes Total: 52-8.
Lions MOTM: Slawomir Kasprzak.