Deeside Dragons 2 Nottingham Lions 1
A gutsy and workmanlike Lions side were left rueing their luck on Sunday evening, as they were edged by a single goal at the hands of the Deeside Dragons at Deeside Ice Rink.
Before the face off, Nottingham found themselves fourth in the league and were looking to keep in touch with the top-end of the Laidler Conference table, sitting three points behind their hosts and eight points behind runaway leaders Solihull Barons.
The Dragons were reeling from the previous day’s 3-2 defeat in Sheffield and were gunning to salvage their double-header weekend, with two points against the visiting Lions, to get their title challenge back on track.
Head Coach Matt Bradbury welcomed back Reece Glossop to the line-up, who missed out on last Sunday’s 3-2 home win over local rivals Sheffield Senators but still only had fourteen skaters and two netminders available, as Slawomir Kasprzak, Cameron Good, James Francis-Barrie, Stephen Breisner and Christy Johnson-Brown all didn’t travel.
Bradbury was also unable to call upon any youngsters for the journey west, with the Under-18s busy playing a fixture back at the National Ice Centre.
Nottingham struggled to cope with Deeside’s pace and positioning in the opening minutes of the first period, with Chris Jones hitting the Lions’ upright inside the opening three minutes before the Dragons took a deserved two-goal lead, courtesy of Kenny Williams and Gary Dixon on nine and eleven minutes respectively.
Slowly, Nottingham began to find their feet and reduced their deficit to one, when Luke Branin’s wrist shot found it’s way past Matty Compton in the Deeside goal.
The Lions began the second period in much more sprightly fashion and almost found their equaliser through Ben Wood, who was denied by a sprawling Compton wonder save.
Fellow custodian Alan Levers was also kept busy at the opposite end of the ice, when he made a string of four fine saves in as many seconds, to deny the hosts their third of the night.
Shortly afterwards, Mikey Rose and Chris Jones both received double-minor roughing penalties, after coming to blows behind Levers’ net on twenty-five minutes.
The Dragons had the puck in the net just after the half-way mark but much to the home crowd’s displeasure, the goal was quickly ruled out by the referee, who had seen the net come free of its moorings before the puck had crossed the line.
Chances kept on coming at both ends, including a Rob Perks effort which was denied by an on-fire Compton in a one-on-one situation but despite the best efforts of both teams, the period ended goalless, leaving the game on a knife-edge going into the final twenty minutes.
The end-to-end action continued in the third, but both sides continued to struggle to find a way past the two in-form goaltenders.
With five minutes remaining, Craig Wallis appeared to have finally beaten Compton, when his shot from the left wing zipped past the goalie’s left hand side and looked to have struck the metalwork inside the goal. Frustratingly, the referee waved off the effort and the lack of a goal judge behind the net only compounded the Lions’ woes.
Deeside nearly sealed the game two minutes later, when Chris Jones hit the post for the second time but the game went right down to the wire and despite Joe Wightman being called for a holding penalty, with twenty-four seconds remaining along with Levers being pulled for the final ten seconds, no further goals were scored.
So, the Dragons still remain the only team in the league that Nottingham have yet to beat or take any points from this season and with the four-game mini series now 3-0 in Deeside’s favour, the Lions now know that if the two sides finish level on points at the end of the campaign, the Welsh team will have secured the positional advantage.
Nottingham now have two weeks to recuperate before they head westbound once again, this time to face the Widnes Wild at Silverblades Ice Rink on Sunday 26th January (6pm).
Luke Branin 1+0, Joe Wightman 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 2-1, 2nd 0-0, 3rd 0-0.
Shots: 1st 12-10, 2nd 15-12, 3rd 19-8. Total: 46-30.
Penalty Mins: 1st 2-4, 2nd 4-4, 3rd 2-4. Total: 8-12.
Lions MOTM: Rob Perks.