Deeside Dragons 3 Nottingham Lions 1.
A battling Nottingham Lions side were narrowly beaten by the Deeside Dragons at Deeside Leisure Centre on Sunday evening, as the Welshmen inflicted a sixth straight defeat on Matt Bradbury's side.
A first period stike from Stuart Parker was not enough to end a miserable run of results for the Lions, as they left North Wales empty-handed and on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat for the second time this season.
Stuart Parker's eighteenth goal of the season wasn't enough to bring home the points.
Going into the game, both teams still had faint hopes of making the play offs and knew a victory could put them well back into the race for fourth position in the NIHL Laidler D2 standings. A win would also guarantee either side a victory in the four game, head to head series between the two sides.
Having all missed out on last weekend's 4-1 home loss to the Solihull Barons, experienced seniors Slawomir Kasprzak, Stuart Parker and Christy Johnson-Brown all made a return to the line-up, whilst Ben Foster-Wilson and Lee Holland remained sidelined and were joined by defencemen Elliot Perrin and Sam Illsley.
Coach Bradbury was also able to call-up Under-18s Luke Evans and Kieran Raynor, whilst Under-16s Jessica Urquhart and Ilija Kolosnicins also travelled and were joined by sixteen year-old debutant Owen Davis, who having just celebrated his birthday, was able to experience his first taste of senior hockey.
The first period began as a open and end-to-end affair, with both sides having good chances to open the scoring but it wasn't until the fourteenth minute that the Lions took the lead, courtesy of veteran Parker's eighteenth goal of the season, as he found himself in acres of space on the right-hand side, headed towards Matty Compton's net unchallenged before cooly firing the puck past the hapless home goalie.
Nottingham then saw out a small spell of Dragons pressure, thanks to an acrobatic Tom Hovell in the Lions' goal before seeing out the period one goal in front of their hosts, only then for an altercation to break out right on the buzzer between Ivo Dimitrijevs and Deeside's Marc Lovell, with the situation taking a good few minutes to resolve before the Zamboni could make its way onto the ice.
Subsequently, Dimitrijevs received two minutes for interference, whilst his opposite number was given a 2+2 for roughing and a ten misconduct penalty.
Ivo Dimitrijevs in action at Deeside Ice Rink on Sunday.
Notoriously slow starters in recent second periods, the Lions were nearly caught short-handed on four occasions in the first seven minutes after the restart, as Tom Hovell again had to come to his side's rescue, with Nottingham visibly missing the pace of Perrin and Illsley at the back.
Under the cosh for most of the period, the hosts then bagged an almost inevitable equaliser on the half-hour mark, thanks to a power play goal from James Parsons.
Aside from the Lions' 7-1 drubbing of the Dragons at the National Ice Centre back in January, games between the two sides are usually tight and physical affairs and this was proving to be the case once again, as Hovell continued to stand on his head to keep the scores level, most notably with a fine double-save to deny his hosts on the power play, with just over a minute remaining in the period.
Nottingham began the third and final period in much more sprightly fashion, racing out of the blocks and causing problems for Compton in the opening seconds before Hovell was called into action yet again, making a good stop from Ross Kennedy on forty-five minutes.
Seconds later, in a moment of deja-vu, the Dragons scored on the power play again and as with their first goal, it happened just seconds after Dimitrijevs had been sent to the penalty box for cross-checking. Bryn Roberts' powerful shot through the centre lane, gave Hovell no chance stopping of the puck.
The Lions never looked out of the game at any stage and as the clocked ticked down, they looked odds-on to get back on level terms, especially when they found themselves on the power play with just under four minutes remaining but Deeside's Man Of The Match Compton continued his outstanding display of netminding, as he stopped everything Nottingham could throw at him.
As the Lions continued to press forward for the equaliser, Tom Hovell was sacrificed for an extra skater in the final thirty seconds and the Dragons were able to finish the game off, via an empty net goal from Chris Jones, with nine seconds remaining.
Stuart Parker receives his 'Man Of The Match' award.
Nottingham remain in seventh position in the league standings but have lost more ground on the three teams above them, leaving their promotion play off qualification hopes all but over for another season.
The Lions now look to restore some local pride next weekend, with two Midlands derby clashes, firstly against Coventry Blaze at the Skydome, on Saturday (28th February - 5pm) before the already promoted Telford Tigers are the visitors to the NIC on the following day (1st March). Face off is at 7.30pm and ticket details for what promises to be a hotly contested encounter between two local rivals are available by clicking here.
Photos are courtesy of Ed Chappell - www.edchappell.com.
Stuart Parker 1+0, Craig Wallis 0+1, Slawomir Kasprzak 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 0-1, 2nd 1-0, 3rd 2-0.
Shots: 1st 13-12, 2nd 13-12, 3rd 8-11. Total 33-35.
Penalty Mins: 1st 16-2, 2nd 16-6, 3rd 14-2. Total 46-10.
Lions MOTM: Stuart Parker.