Deeside Dragons are one step closer to the Laidler Conference title following a bruising 7-5 win over Nottingham Lions in a penalty-filled battle at a packed Den.
Nottingham are the only team to have beaten the Dragons this season so the Deeside outfit knew it was not going to be an easy ride, particularly after the public fallout between backers Red Hockey and Flintshire Council which led to the authority retaking control of the club.
The home fans were silenced as a fast start from the Lions saw them open up a two goal lead but the hosts regrouped and restored parity before going on to win the game with Simon Furnival and Adrian Palak netting hat-tricks, much to the delight of head coach Lol Paul.
“Nottingham took us by surprise with the two quick early goals but I never thought at any point that we were going to lose and our four answered goals to make it 4-2 showed we are a team that has lots of players that can score goals,” said Paul.
“Simon Furnival was outstanding with his three goals and fully deserved getting the MVP and the whole team put in some great shifts to continue the 18 game unbeaten run and take another step closer to the title.”
Nottingham’s young team were willing to skate hard and fast to try and upset Deeside’s rhythm and the tactics worked with the East Midlanders setting the pace with two early goals from Connor Glossop.
It did not take long for the Dragons to get back on track with two shorthanded goals within a minute from Palak and Furnival to level the score going into the first break.
The second period saw the Chester Road men turning up the pressure on with with Palak and Furnival continuing where they left off in the first period with another goal apiece to make it 4-2 to Deeside.
The Dragons came out flying in the third period with Palak getting his hat-trick goal with less than a minute on the clock to take a 5-2 lead only for the Lions to score two quick goals within a minute from Joe Humphries to pull the deficit back to one.
With the game at 5-4 both teams turned up the pressure and the game became littered with penalties and the referee sent three Nottingham players to the sin-bin along with two from Deeside.
Marc Lovell netted for the Dragons assisted by Palak to restore the home teams lead to two only for the Lions to peg it back to a single goal less than a minute later.
The game then got very messy with both team taking major penalties, Owen Bennett went toe to toe with Benjamin Wilson which got the fans off their seats, the scrapping pair were quickly sent to the penalty bench which by now was getting very crowded.
Nottingham had seven players in the sin-bin by now and Deeside took advantage of the situation when Furnival fired home his hat-trick goal with a shot to the top corner to send the crowd wild.
With both teams hyped up and only a minute left in the game it wasn’t long before another fight broke out with Mike Jones and Slawomir Kasprzak tangling with each other at centre ice.
Deeside finished 7-5 winners to open up a 13 point lead at the top of the table with five games to go.
Widnes Wild, who are second with three games in hand, are the only team capable of catching the Dragons.