Nottingham Lions 1 Solihull Barons 4.
A youthful-looking Nottingham Lions side matched an unbeaten Solihull Barons team for fifty-five minutes before eventually succumbing to a 4-1 scoreline, at the National Ice Centre on Sunday evening.
A goal in the opening minute of the game from youngster Hamish Hall was not enough for Nottingham to prevent their winless streak increasing to five games but despite the result, there were numerous positives for Matt Bradbury's side to take away, including being only the second team all season to keep an unstoppable Barons squad within three or less goals of a draw.
Hamish Hall picked up the Lions' only goal and the 'Man Of The Match' award.
Having not tasted victory since the 11th January and after suffering a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Telford Tigers on Saturday evening, the Lions were hoping that they could turn their fortunes around on home ice against their Midlands rivals but knowing they had a huge task ahead of them, with the all-conquering Barons still yet to drop a single point all season.
Coach Bradbury was able to welcome back Elliot Perrin and Reece Glossop, who both missed out on the previous night's loss in Telford but lost the services of the injured Slawomir Kasprzak and the suspended Ben Foster-Wilson.
Regulars Stuart Parker, Christy Johnson-Brown and Lee Holland were also unavailable, so short on seniors, Bradbury had called upon five Under-18 players in the shape of Hall, Connor Glossop, Luke Evans, Joe Gretton and Joe Humhpries, whilst promising sixteen year-olds,Tyler Poole and Ilija Kolosnicins also dressed for their first taste of Lions action at the NIC, alongside Jessica Urquhart, who made history in Telford, the previous night by becoming the first ever female to play for the Lions.
Jessica Urquhart made history this weekend, as the first ever female to play for the Lions.
In an entertaining first period, despite the sizeable gap between the two teams in the league table, there was very little to choose between them, as the Lions raced out of the blocks and scored inside the first minute of play, thanks a cool-headed finish from Hall, right in front of the Barons' net.
Solihull are currently averaging almost ten goals a game, in their twenty-six matches played so far and the almost inevitable happened when Tomas Janak found an equaliser for the visitors, with nine minutes played.
The period then continued with some free-flowing, end-to-end hockey, in which Nottingham almost got their noses back in front on the power play, right before the buzzer but Barons' netminder Josh Nicholls was equal to anything Bradbury's side had to throw at him.
The Lions have struggled stay in touch with their opponents in recent second periods and despite showing the willingness and desire after the first intermission, Nottingham seemed not have lady luck on their side, as Joe Henry put Solihull in front on twenty-four minutes before Craig Wallis' effort struck the visitor's post six minutes later.
Former Lion Thomas Soar then gave the Barons a two-goal cushion on thirty-two minutes before six minutes later, this fierce local derby began to show signs of boiling over, as Solihull's Rob Eley and Ivo Dimitrijevs came to blows in front of Tom Hovell's net, with the Lions' lively Latvian given a 2+2 for roughing, whilst his challenger also received an extra ten minute misconduct penalty for his troubles.
With blood on the ice, the period was ended two minutes early and subsequently twenty-two minutes to play after the restart.
Tom Hovell had a solid game in the Lions' goal.
Nottingham were still showing no signs of succumbing to their supposed superior opponents in the third period and a frustrated Barons side could have easily have found themselves on level terms, if it wasn't for their reliable custodian Nicholls, who continued to shut the door when the Lions broke through the mean visiting defence.
Another fight broke out with twelve minutes remaining, as Elliot Perrin's flurry of punches easily took David Rogers down to the ice, with both again receiving 2+2 for roughing.
In what has been a tough weekend against the league's top-two teams, Nottingham were beginning to show signs of tired legs as the final period wore on and Solihull took advantage with five minutes left on the clock, thanks to a Niklas Ottosson strike, which effectively ended any hopes of a late Lions comeback.
So no points for Brudbury's side but to hold a side of the Barons's caliber to a close game right until the death,with no fewer than eight Under-18s on the ice is a fantastic achievement for the team and will certainly bode well for many future seasons to come at the NIC.
An away trip to North Wales now beckons for the Lions next Sunday (22nd February - 6.45pm face off), as they travel to face the Deeside Dragons at Deeside Leisure Centre, who are another side clinging on to faint hopes of a top-four finish and Nottingham are sure to be buoyed on by their 7-1 victory at the NIC, in the last meeting between the two teams, at the beginning of January.
Photos are courtesy of Peter McConnachie / Urban Scot Photography.
Hamish Hall 1+0, Ben Wood 0+1.
Period Scores: 1st 1-1, 2nd 0-2, 3rd 0-1.
Shots: 1st 12-12, 2nd 5-15, 3rd 11-10. Total 28-37.
Penalty Mins: 1st 0-2, 2nd 6-16, 3rd 14-6. Total 20-24.
Lions MOTM (sponsored by Ice Breakers): Hamish Hall.