Nottingham Lions v Sutton Sting ENL Play-Off review

Like many others, I made my way to the NIC yesterday afternoon to see the 2nd leg of the ENL North Relegation Play-Off between Nottingham Lions and Sutton Sting. For those that didn’t know, Sting won the first leg 7-4 at Ice Sheffield on Saturday, so Lions faced an uphill task to try and hold on to their Division 1 status.
Some cracking marketing by the Lions saw an excellent crowd of 1,048 at the NIC Arena pad for the game which included a very healthy contingent who made the short journey from North Notts. Considering that the final weekend of the Premier League season was concluding at the same time it makes the crowd figure all the more impressive. Added to the 700 who were at Ice Sheffield on Saturday it shows a healthy appetite for this level of senior hockey.

To my shame, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been to a Lions game for one reason or another so I didn’t know what to expect While the quality wasn’t up to Elite League standards, the heart, passion and effort from both sides certainly was. It was a very entertaining game, both sides really went for it, none more so than the Lions who pulled back the three goal deficit just after the half-way point of the game, then took the lead overall on 32 minutes as Chris Colegate skated in alone to make it 4-0 and 8-7 on aggregate.

While the Lions were doing the job at one end of the ice, netminder Alan Levers was doing his bit in goal, pulling off a string of incredible saves to keep the score at 4-0. Indiscipline cost the Lions towards the end of the 2nd and Sutton pulled one back from close in on the powerplay to level the aggregate scores and make it a winner takes all final period.

In the final session the Sting took hold of the game, scoring three unanswered goals, one an empty netter, to secure promotion for the first time in their short history. The Lions will take their place in ENL North Division 2 next season.

At only £3 for Panthers season ticket holder I found this game cracking value for money, but it did set me thinking. Would crowds at this level improve if the league was switched to summer? Obviously there was no pull on the hockey pound due to the came taking place in May, and I believe that is why the crowd for both games was so high. Obviously such a move would take some major re-structuring, but it’s worth putting out there for debate I feel.

Finally all that’s left is to congratulate Sutton Sting on their promotion and commiserate the Lions on relegation. Here’s to season to 2012/13

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