Lions close on title after goal rampage at Blackburn
THE Nottingham Lions are just four points away from being crowned NIHL Division Two North champions after they romped to a huge 13-2 win over Blackburn Eagles at Blackburn Arena.
A young, short-benched Lions side showed little sign of weakness despite missing the likes of Stuart Parker, Christy Johnson-Brown and Craig Wallis as they overwhelmed their lowly hosts with a barrage of 91 shots.
The scoring started five minutes into the game when Daniel Hazeldine continued his fine scoring form with a powerplay goal for the visitors after Darren Shaw sat a two-minute minor interference penalty.
Blackburn then tied the game at one each ten minutes later through assistant captain Paul Mercer.
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Thirty seconds later Hazeldine gave the Lions the lead once again, the youngster netted his fifth goal of the season with assists coming from Joe Wightman and Luke Branin, proving how clinical anyone on their line can be.
A minute later Mikey Rose doubled the travelling side's lead. Once again coming from some slick passing in the Eagles defensive zone.
Two minutes before the break, Lions leading goal-scorer Joe Wightman added the fourth, putting the forward onto 45 points for the season with great passing and possession hockey in the build up.
Wightman scored his second goal of the night seven minutes into the second period with Branin providing yet another assist in the build up, the American's 20th of the season.
Thirty seconds later, Rose broke away as a pass found him with lots of space in the neutral zone. However, when skating through on goal he was tripped resulting in a penalty shot being awarded to the utility man. He dusted himself off, skated up to the Eagles netminder Nick Saxton before firing the puck into the back of the net for Nottingham's sixth.
Ben Wood was the next player to get himself on the scoresheet when he got the better of Saxton.
Just over 20 seconds later, Reece Glossop got in on the act, scoring his fifth point of the season and the last goal of the period for Matt Bradbury's men.
The third period started with an Eagles goal, reducing the deficit to six as Harry Bolton scored his first senior goal.
A minute later, Branin scored his first goal of the night.
With just over ten minutes to go Joe Steeples put the Lions into double figures, scoring his first goal of the season and only his third point all year.
At 55.19 Elliot Perrin had to leave the ice after taking a stick to his face, not helping the already short-benched Lions side. Dave Williams subsequently received a 5+game for the high-stick which signaled a turning point for the Eagles as their discipline began to go off the rails.
Heading into the last five minutes, anyone who thought the Lions would slow the pace down were proved wrong when Gareth O'Flaherty netted his first of the night with a powerplay goal.
O'Flaherty added another, again on the powerplay and in the final minute Branin scored his second of the night to finish off a busy night's scoring.
With Sheffield only managing to claim a point up in Hull on the same evening, the Lions now know a road win at Fylde Flyers on Saturday (5pm), followed by another two points at the National Ice Centre against Blackburn on Sunday evening (7.15pm) would see them crowned champions, securing promotion back to Division One at the first time of asking.