Deeside Dragons 2 Nottingham Lions 4
Neither the icy road conditions nor the Deeside Dragons could prevent the Nottingham Lions extending their lead at the top of Division Two North on Sunday evening, as first place met second at Deeside Ice Arena.
With many games in the National Ice Hockey League falling prey to the wintry weather, the Lions decided to plough on through the snow and were rewarded for their endeavour with the two points after a hard fought win over their North Wales-based promotion rivals.
The first period found debutant netminder Alan Levers, a last-minute midweek signing from Sutton Sting, on fine form as Deeside looked to take the advantage early on but the 28 year-old custodian showed why coach Matt Bradbury has brought him back to his old club, pulling off a string of fine saves.
It wasn’t all one way traffic however, as David Clancy in the Dragons goal was also kept busy and was the first to have his net rippled on 16 minutes when Canadian forward Jose Leon coolly fired home after a quick breakout of the Lions’ zone.
Seconds later, Leon again found himself in a virtually identical situation but this time was denied by Clancy as Nottingham closed out a flowing, end-to-end period, a goal to the good.
The second period followed a similar pattern with Deeside piling on the pressure in the Lions’ zone but with Levers in such fine form, Nottingham seemed content to soak up the pressure and hit their hosts on the break.
Gareth O’Flaherty then doubled the Lions’ lead on the powerplay after 25 minutes and it was nearly three on the half-hour as Joe Wightman’s breakaway chance was closed out by a quick-thinking Clancy, who raced out of his crease to minimise the marksman’s options.
Tom King finally broke the Lions’ resolve moments later to keep the Dragons in the game heading into the final period.
Nottingham made the worst possible start to the third period, conceding an equaliser in the first minute, once again courtesy of the stick of Tom King.
The Dragons had their tails up and were well in the ascendancy when Jordan Bannon, along with a large section of the home support, thought he had put the Dragons ahead but his shot just crept wide of Levers’ right-hand post and could only worry the side-netting.
With eight minutes remaining, defenceman Jack Baveystock provided a sucker punch to the Welsh outfit as he popped up through a melee of bodies to flick the puck home from close range for his second goal of the season.
The points were sealed with just nine seconds left on the clock as the Dragons pulled Clancy for an extra attacker but their failure to win the vital face off proved to be their undoing as American import Luke Branin eased the puck into an empty net with just two seconds left.
LionsTV post-game interviews with Matt Bradbury, Gareth O’Flaherty and captain Luke Thomas will be available to view here from Monday evening.
The Lions will now be looking to maintain their 100% home record next Sunday (27th January), as promotion rivals Solihull Barons are the visitors to the National Ice Centre (7.15pm face off) in what is sure to be a fiercely contested Midlands derby game. Ticket details are available by clicking here.
Jose Leon 1+0, Gareth O’Flaherty 1+1, Jack Baveystock 1+0, Luke Branin 1+0, Craig Wallis 0+1, Joe Wightman 0+1, Christy Johnson-Brown 0+2.
Period Scores: 1st 0-1, 2nd 1-1, 3rd 1-2.
Shots: 1st 20-13, 2nd 18-7, 3rd 10-13. Total 43-33.
Penalty Minutes: 1st 4-2, 2nd 4-4, 3rd 2-0. Total 10-6.
Lions MOTM: Alan Levers.