ICE HOCKEY: FLINTSHIRE Freeze got their ED1 play-off bandwagon rolling against a decidedly toothless Lions outfit at Deeside Ice Rink on Sunday, winning 8-3.
Having opened up the round-robin phase of the competition with a draw and a defeat against Blackburn Hawks the previous weekend, Freeze looked something like their old selves as they preserved their season-long unbeaten home record with a classy dis-play.
Nottingham are the weakest side in the northern half of the play-offs and they were never given a look-in against the league champions.
Said player-coach Mark Stokes after the victory: 'That was more like it!
'We went into the Blackburn games on the back of a long break from competitive action and it showed in our performances. But now we're back in our stride and we looked a different side against Nottingham.
'We never gave them a chance to settle and kept pressing them throughout the game.'
Stokes is now looking forward to this Saturday's return trip to Nottingham with optimism.
'If we win, it'll set us up nicely for the following weekend when we play Sheffield home and away,' he said. 'They're top of the group right now so we'll probably have to win both games to go above them and qualify for the final.'
Freeze certainly took the game to the Lions on Sunday, racing into a 3-0 first-period lead.
Billy Price set up Simon Mills for the opener after six minutes before captain Pete Founds doubled the hosts' advantage from close range soon after.
Price then latched on to a long pass out of defence to make it 3-0 with a shorthanded goal.
The second period was Nottingham's best of the game, although Freeze netminder Matty Compton restricted them to just two goals.
At the other end, Stokes and Price scored to keep the Freeze in the driving seat.
The hosts flexed their muscles again during the final period, with Mills finishing off a superb solo skate to make it 6-2 on 43 minutes.
Although Nottingham had the beating of Compton one more time before the final buzzer, Freeze hit back with a rare brace from Aaron Richardson to wrap up a convincing home win.
Stokes was full of praise for his team as a whole but paid special tribute to the brilliance of Compton in nets.
'Matty was simply outstanding again,' said the Canadian player-coach. 'He's in superb form at the moment and teams just can't find a way past him.
'We'll need him to carry on like that for our last three games, then hopefully we'll have a play-off final to look forward to.' Face-off in Nottingham on Saturday is 2.30pm. Supporters can travel on the team coach, which leaves Deeside Leisure Centre in Queensferry at 9.30am, for £5.
Dave Costello and Alan Hough are possible absentees.