Nottingham Lions 2 Solihull Barons 1
Nottingham Lions edged out their local rivals Solihull Barons in their first home game of the new Laidler Conference season at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
All three goals came in a sprightly first twenty minutes, which was then followed by two goalless but intense periods of hockey.
Matt Bradbury’s men were are almost at full strength for this much anticipated clash, with former NHL D-Man Chris Allen making his Lions debut against the team he captained last term, alongside him were ex-Barons trio; Neil Adams, Rob Perks and Connor McNaughton who all made their Nottingham home debuts against their former club.
New defensive signing James Francis-Barrie also donned a Nottingham jersey for the first time.
Solihull were fresh from a narrow 5-4 victory over West Midlands rivals Coventry Blaze at the Skydome just twenty-four hours earlier and the Lions were hoping their opponents might still be feeling the burn from their previous nights activities.
Nottingham might have thought that this was the case as they got off to a flying start when American import Luke Branin squeezed a shot past Solihull goalie Sam Hewitt inside the first four minutes for the game opener.
However, it was far from one-way traffic for the Lions as Alan Levers had to be on his guard as the Barons forced him into making a number of solid stops.
As both sets of players began to find their feet after a cagey first ten minutes, the physical encounter the bumper crowd at the NIC had all expected to see, began to rear its head with Nottingham finding themselves on the end of some tasty hits from their more-sizeable opponents but to their credit they continued to remain composed on the puck.
Richard Slater finally broke Nottingham’s resolve after eleven minutes, finding himself alone in front of the crease, he coolly slotted the puck between Levers’ pads for the equalising goal.
Two minutes later, promising youngster Dan Hazeldine put the Lions back in front on the power play, after some neat skill and a fine finish.
With seconds remaining before the end of the period, an unfortunate Perks, whilst low down on the ice, took a nasty, stray puck to the face but after receiving treatment during the intermission, he was able to continue.
A feisty and hard-fought second period saw the visitors dominate large chunks of the possession, keeping their hosts firmly camped in their own zone for the first ten minutes with Levers again producing some fine stops.
Nottingham did however, continue to look dangerous, especially on the counter, with Branin and Allen going close but in the end neither side could add to their tally, leaving the game finely balanced going into final period.
Disappointingly for the Lions, Hazdeline was given a five plus match penalty for elbows in the dying seconds of the second period, sadly ending what had been a very impressive performance from the youngster up to that point.
The final period began in similar vain to the second, firstly with Nottingham successfully killing the five minute penalty before both sides once again tried in vain to score a game-changing goal.
As the minutes ticked down on the clock, an increasingly desperate Barons side threw the kitchen sink at the Lions net but a stalwart home defence and more outstanding goaltending secured the two points for Nottingham and four from a possible four, so far this season.
Next up for the Lions is a tricky away trip to Coventry Blaze next Sunday (22nd September) with an 8.15pm face off.
A post-game interview with Head Coach Matt Bradbury can be heard on Lions Radio by clicking here.
Luke Branin 1+0, Daniel Hazeldine 1+0, Michael Rose 0+1, Ben Wood 0+1, James Francis-Barrie 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 2-1, 2nd 0-0, 3rd 0-0.
Shots: 1st 14-13, 2nd 10-11, 3rd 8-13. Total: 32-37.
Penalty Minutes: 1st 6-6, 2nd 39-4, 3rd 2-4. Total: 47-14.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Alan Levers.