Coventry ENL Blaze 5 Nottingham Lions 2
The ENL Blaze claimed the two points in the ‘battle of the basement’ at the Coventry Skydome this evening and replaced the Lions in the spot just above the relegation places.
This fixture had been looming large on the horizon for both sides for a good few weeks. Especially as both sides seemed incapable of shaking off the inconsistency in results that has blighted both camps since the beginning of the season, preventing them both from moving away from the foot of the league.
You could tell how much this potential ’4-pointer’ meant to both sides, with some early exchanges of checks and fists in the opening seconds as both sides vied for superiority.
Then, just 50 seconds in – up popped Gareth O’Flaherty to fire the puck home from a Jonny Bell pass and give the Lions a dream start (00.50).
Danny Rose then clipped the post before the Blaze immediately broke on the counter and Jake Larkin got ahead of the Lions defence to slot past Richard Griffiths for his first ever goal for the West-Midlands side (05.19).
As the period wore on, the Blaze began to have the better of the play – Griffiths having to make a number of good stops as the Lions defence seemed slightly cautious of hustling the home attack at times, perhaps being understandably weary of giving away needless penalties in such an important fixture.
Coventry eventually made their pressure count – Connor Hubbuck firing home, high past Griffiths (17.11) to give the Blaze a 2-1 lead at the end of the first.
Any hopes of an improved Lions firing out of the blocks in the second looked to have been quickly extinguished after a Rikki Bryniarski goal on 21.52.
But to their credit, their heads didn’t drop and they quickly got back to within one goal via Christy Johnson-Brown (24.01).
The Blaze then reopened their two goal cushion on 30.02 courtesy of Gareth Owen and then preceded to kill six minutes worth of penalty minutes as the Lions strived to score a third before the period ended.
Nottingham started the third in spritely fashion, no doubt eager to test Adam Goss in the Coventry goal a little more, having only amassed 15 shots to the Blazes 28 in the previous two periods.
After a short delay to replace some loose plexi-glass that had fallen onto the ice, the visitors kept on plugging away at the home defence, but to no avail. With less than five minutes to go, Coventry got their fifth of the game and Hubbuck’s second (55.41) to wrap-up the points.
Lions’ Head Coach Matt Bradbury was visibly disappointed after the game saying ” We only put in 35/40 minutes tonight, we didn’t get enough puck on the net, the period scores were close, they were all one goal periods but we got outshot two to one – it was a tricky night”.
“I’ve just said to the players in the changing room – we’ve got nine games to go, yes we’ve dropped back down into the relegation zone but the most important thing is that we stay unified – there’s no point going into the changing room and start throwing things about, that’s not going to help anybody – We know it’s going to be difficult but were still up for the battle.”
The Lions now head to Blackburn Hawks tomorrow evening and will hope to put some points on the board and put tonight’s disappointment behind them.
Christy Johnson-Brown 1+0, Gareth O’Flaherty 1+0, Jonny Bell 0+1, Danny Rose 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 2-1, 2nd 2-1, 3rd 1-0.
Shots: 1st 14-6, 2nd 14-9, 3rd 11-4. Total 39-19
Pen. Minutes: 1st 0-0, 2nd 6-0, 3rd 0-2. Total 6-2.
Lions MOTM: Christy Johnson-Brown.