Nottingham Lions 0 Solihull Barons 7.
The Nottingham Lions failed to end the Solihull Barons' impressive sixteen game winning streak, as they were comprehensively beaten by their Midlands rivals at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
The Lions were also looking to break their own unwanted streak of three straight defeats but were unable to cope with an impressive Barons side, who currently sit comfortably on top of the Laidler Conference table.
Champions-in-waiting, Solihull had not dropped a single point since a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Deeside Dragons, way back in October last year and Matt Bradbury's men were under no illusion at the size of their task, knowing they were coming up against the league's best attack and defence (184 goals scored – 44 conceded) but they were buoyed by the fact that they have beaten the Barons twice already this season.
Coach Bradbury welcomed back the likes of Slawomir Kasprzak, Christy Johnson-Brown, Cameron Good and Jamie Hovell, who all missed last weekend's narrow away defeat at Coventry. Star forward Joe Wightman was still missing through injury but Nottingham were able to call upon youngster Luke Evans, to bolster their options.
Two weeks ago at the NIC, Nottingham claimed an unwanted record, conceding a goal after just five seconds of their game against Widnes Wild, so they were hoping for a better start against their local rivals this time around.
However, any early optimism was quickly quashed, as the visitors scored the opening goal after just thirty-three seconds, when Josh Bruce smashed a shot past Alan Levers in the Lions’ goal.
Things went from bad to worse for Nottingham, when less than two minutes later, a defensive mix-up following a Rob Eley shot saw the puck trickle over the goal line before Levers was able to get his bearings.
It was clear to see that the home defence was struggling to cope with Solihull’s skilful and speedy raids on the Lions net but the heroics of Levers, making a sting of excellent stops, made sure his goal would not be breached again in the first period.
The Lions did have chances of their own in the opening twenty minutes but once again, despite their forwards’ best efforts, they could not find a way past their opposition’s netminder, something they have struggled to do on a regular basis all season.
Nottingham were not about to throw in the towel however and started the second period in sprightly fashion, knowing local pride and bragging rights still at steak.
But for all their efforts, it was the Barons who once again found themselves on the score sheet through Connor Hubbuck on twenty-seven minutes.
Six minutes later, Solihull had their fourth of the night when Joe Henry was given the time and space to neatly slot the puck past Levers after a one-on-one with the veteran goalie.
Tempers began to boil over on thirty-five minutes, when Lions’ Ben Wood and the Barons’ Richard Slater dropped their gloves and squared up behind the play and it was the Nottingham assistant captain who took the spoils, sending his opponent sprawling to the ice with a single punch, followed by both players then being sent to the penalty box for roughing.
Youngster Tom Hovell replaced Levers in goal for the final period and despite valiant efforts from the youthful Lions squad, they could not prevent further damage at the hands of an unstoppable and rampant Solihull team.
Slater scored a fifth on forty-six minutes and the resulting celebrations triggered three consecutive fights, all ending without an obvious victor, firstly a scuffle broke out between Joseph Steeples and Michael Rodger, which was then closely followed by a tense stand-off between two of the league’s biggest heavyweights in the form of Ben Foster-Wilson and Perry Doyle, both of the imposing figures waited patently for one another to make the first move before eventually bringing each other crashing to the ice, without a single punch being thrown from either party.
Connor McNaughton and David Rodgers then also had a brief encounter of their own before the following inevitable long delay, whilst the officials organised their long list of roughing penalties.
Further goals from Tomas Janak and a second of the night from Bruce completed the visitors convincing performance in the final minutes and condemned Nottingham to their first home defeat without scoring since the 2011/12 season.
The Lions still remain in a commanding position for play-off qualification but will need to get back to winning ways as soon a possible, if they are to have any chance of progressing through the post-season competition.
Bottom side Blackburn Eagles are next to visit the NIC on Sunday 16th March and should present Bradbury’s side with the perfect opportunity to end their recent run of defeats. Face off at the National Ice Centre is at 7.30pm. Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Period Scores: 1st 0-2, 2nd 0-2, 3rd 0-3.
Shots: 1st 8-20, 2nd 9-19, 3rd 4-17. Total: 21-56.
Penalty Mins: 1st 2-6, 2nd 18-8, 3rd 14-33. Total: 34-47.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Slawomir Kasprzak.