Deeside Dragons 2 Nottingham Lions 1
First place overcame second in Sunday night’s big Laidler Conference clash at Deeside Ice Rink, as the Nottingham Lions lost by the odd-goal against a high-flying Deeside Dragons side.
In what was arguably their toughest game of the season so far, the Lions’ target was to come away with the win and in-turn, reduce their Welsh opponents’ lead at the top of the table to just to just one point.
Their task was made even tougher having travelled without their assistant captains Ben Wood and Mikey Rose. They were also missing Christy Johnson-Brown, Cameron Good and Chris Allen along with youngsters Connor Glossop, Jordan Bloom and Hamish Hall, who were all on Under-18’s duty.
However, new signing Lee Holland was able to make his second career Lions debut after signing during the week.
A lively start saw both teams battle for an advantage in the opening minutes. Craig Wallis imposed himself early on in the game, with a couple of big hits, whilst Alan Levers looked as confident as ever in the Lions’ goal.
However, after ten minutes the home side drew first blood, when Slawomir Kasprzak was sent to the penalty box for hooking and Michael Jones made the most of the resulting power play to put the Dragons in front.
Nottingham had their fair share of possession in the opening period, but they struggled to get much rubber on George Cox’s net, ending the period having had only five shots on target.
Deeside almost doubled their advantage inside the first sixty seconds of the restart when Simon Furnival’s shot from the point deceived everyone and skidded into Lever’s right-hand post before being cleared away.
The Dragons did have their second goal on the game’s half-way mark, after a period of sustained pressure, which saw the Lions struggle to clear their own zone, James Parsons hit home almost directly from a face-off, giving the visitors an uphill task to get back into the fixture.
The game did open up a little directly after the second goal, with Nottingham having a number of fine attempts stopped by an in-form Cox.
Despite a one and a half minute 5-on-3 spell towards the end of the period, the Lions still couldn’t find a break-though and Levers had to spare his team’s blushes when he superbly denied Jordan Bannon a short-handed goal on the breakaway.
Early into the final period Dan Hazeldine clipped Deeside’s post with a shot across the front of Cox before Chris Jones hit the angle of post and crossbar at the other end, five minutes later.
Frustratingly, the game struggled to flow during large parts of the third, as a plethora of offside calls were given against both teams, which continually broke up the play and scuppered numerous attacking opportunities.
With less than five minutes remaining it looked like the Lions were going to be shut-out for the first time since their defeat at Solihull last March but after a manic goalmouth scramble Rob Perks managed to poke the puck over the goal line to put the game on a knife-edge for the final few minutes.
From that point on it was all Nottingham, as they threw the kitchen sink at the Dragons’ goal and looked odds-on to find an equaliser but despite pulling Levers for the final few seconds, they couldn’t find the game-tying goal and Deeside took the two points, which now leaves them a healthy five points clear of the Lions in the standings.
Nottingham now look forward to a weekend off before they have an opportunity to bounce back at the first time of asking, when they host local-rivals Coventry Blaze on Sunday 8th December, in another top of the table encounter at the National Ice Centre (7.30pm). Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Rob Perks 1+0, Neil Adams 0+1, Luke Branin 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-0, 2nd 1-0, 3rd 0-1.
Shots: 1st 12-5, 2nd 11-13, 3rd 14-12. Total: 37-30.
Penalty Mins: 1st 0-2, 2nd 10-2, 3rd 4-8. Total: 14-12.
Lions MOTM: Alan Levers.