Blackburn entered the game with a 0-2 record for the season, while Nottingham’s first two games had resulted in a win and a draw. With Nottingham also having won five of the six previous fixtures between the two teams, previous statistics suggested a relatively easy Nottingham win. In reality, the game was a tense affair which could have gone either way, with Nottingham finally overcoming Blackburn with two late goals, following a flurry of penalties in the last five minutes of the final period.
Period 1 began tentatively with Blackburn enjoying the first substantial attack of the game, forcing a save from Holly Steeples at 0.29. This was followed by two attacks from Nottingham, the first producing a shot from Paige Dance from the right, the second, from Rebecca Cooke following a pass by Robin Mullen. The teams continued to trade attacks through the period, with Blackburn hitting the pipe at 9.36 and Nottingham forcing a glove save from Sarah Bloor shortly afterwards. Great work by Robin Mullen then precipitated a melee around the Blackburn net, which resulted in a minor pushing scuffle. Nottingham enjoyed a period on power play when Blackburn’s Megan Bowen-Fell received 2 minutes for holding the stick at 9.51. However, the same player left the penalty box to score an unassisted even handed goal shortly afterwards at 12.03 to give Blackburn the lead. A tense first period came to a close with Blackburn leading 1-0 (period s.o.g. 9-11, pens 2-4).
The second period began in the same manner of the first with Blackburn making the first substantive attack requiring Holly Steeples to cover the puck. This was followed by a brilliant run from Robin Mullen which nearly brought the equalising goal. A subsequent shot by Rebecca Cooke which required a good save from the Blackburn net minder seemed to encourage the Vipers into a period of dominance after which the game returned to its previous pattern of the two teams trading shots which required both goal tenders to be alert and to respond quickly. Rebecca Cooke was unlucky with two shots, having been set up nicely on both occasions by Julia Coughill. The momentum of the game finally changed when Blackburn’s Megan Bowenfell took another penalty for holding the stick. With just over 5 minutes of the period remaining and Nottingham camped around the Blackburn goal, Paige Dance was able to thread the puck through the Blackburn defence from just inside the blue line to score a power play goal, having been fed the puck by Emma French. This was a deserved equaliser as Nottingham had been the better side during the period, though Blackburn were always threatening on the break. As the clock ticked down, Blackburn’s Rachel Linton just missed the Vipers’ goal following a fine run down the left. Berni Chillman then managed to pounce on a loose puck in centre ice only for the resulting shot to be saved by the Blackburn net minder. Following on, Julia Coughill and Robin Mullen were both unlucky with shots that just went by the post. The period closed with the scores tied at 1-1 (period s.o.g. 11-5, pens 2-2).
In this very tight game, the first substantive shot of the third period was an attempt by Michelle Peat which forced Sarah Bloor to parry the puck to prevent a goal. There was then a period when the two teams traded shots resulting in good stops by Holly Steeples and Sarah Bloor. Emma French was continuing to go close but Blackburn were able to turn defence into attack when clearing the puck. It was becoming very clear, as the period progressed, that the game would end as a one goal game. Lucy Kendall nearly broke the deadlock with a great shot but a subsequent break-out nearly led to Blackburn’s Beckie Elliot getting one past Holly Steeples. The last 5 minutes of the game produced a series of incidents which ultimately defined the game’s result. It started when Blackburn’s Philippa Riddoch was given a 2 minute minor for holding (39.49) and Elizabeth Aspinall a 2 minute slashing minor (40.13) straight after Blackburn had enjoyed a power play opportunity following a hooking call on Julia Coughill (38.36). Although short-handed, Blackburn managed to break through the deadlock to score on 40.55 following a face-off. Blackburn’s Catherine Bowenfell then took a 10 minute misconduct major for abuse of the official. With Blackburn visibly losing their concentration and shape, Rebecca Cooke levelled the score on 42.55, assisted by Julia Coughill, following intense pressure. The goal prompted the Blackburn net minder to take exception to the officiating, only to land herself with her own 10 minute major (42.55). With Blackburn picking up a further 2 minute interference minor on 43.24 (Sarah Linton), the momentum had moved in Nottingham’s direction and further pressure saw Paige Dance get her second power play goal of the game on 44.08, assisted by a nice touch by Lucy Kendall. With little time to respond Blackburn had to settle with a 3-2 defeat (period s.o.g. 11-5, pens 2-26). For an excellent all round performance, Rebecca Meats received the MoM award.