Milton Keynes Lightning enjoyed the exhilaration of an unlikely win followed by the agony of a shut-out defeat – both games against Manchester Storm – at the weekend.
On Saturday, short-benched, they pulled off an incredible 3-2 victory against Elite League leaders Manchester Storm at MK Arena on Saturday.
But on Sunday it was a completely different story as they crumbled at Storm’s Altrincham arena, going 6-0 behind by the half way mark – the final score.
Lightning were missing three injured players – James Griffin, Kevin Gibson and Christian Isackson for both clashes – plus the suspended Francis Verreault-Paul on Saturday, but had new signing, Brit Sam Godfrey, released by Guildford Flames a day or so before, in their ranks.
Lightning looked to be staring defeat in the face after Storm established a two goal lead early in the second period.
But Storm had not accounted for Lightning’s grit and determination of Lightning who were focused on maintaining their unbeaten home record.
While Storm dominated long periods of the play Lightning snuffed out the danger where it mattered most – in front of goal.
Early on Linden Springer produced a fine chance for Manchester when he shot through traffic after four minutes, only for goalie Miika Wiikman to get to the puck.
A minute or so later Lewis Hook saw his shot pushed away by Storm stopper Mike Clemente before Storm turned on the pressure.
It took 2mins 26secs of the middle stanza for Storm to edge in front when Shane Bakker redirected a blast from Jay Rosehill.
Lightning conceded a second goal while even handed through Matt Beca on 27mins 31secs but MK were not about to cave in.
A time out by Manchester did not have the desired effect – instead Lightning went on a three pronged attacked with Hook blasting home a great goal from the right on 34mins 35secs.
It was game on and Russell’s charges went in search of the equaliser.
With the netminder stranded on the ice, captain Kevin King fired high into the goal for the leveller at 38mins 34secs.
Storm started the third session like they meant business in trying to find another go ahead goal. For MK at this stage it was a question of backs to the wall – and they did it superbly under siege for the first couple of minutes.
As the encounter entered its final ten minutes there was a sense that MK could snatch the win.
Denny Kearney raised the rafters of arena with a stunning goal – shooting high into the net on 56mins 37secs as Guillaume Doucet was doing battle with Dallas Ehrhardt behind the Manchester goal.
Head coach Peter Russell called a time out with 2mins 32secs to go – to try to disrupt Storm – and while the visitors withdrew Clemente in favour of the extra skater they were unable to find an equaliser to avoid only their second loss in seven league games.
Lightning’s showing at Altrincham the next day was one which Russell was far from happy with. He tweeted: “Tonight wasn’t acceptable and we all know it. Being short is no excuse. It was from us our worst effort so far of the season. The travelling Lightning fans and those at home deserve better.”
The visitors fell behind after 5mins 10secs when Dane Byers’ blast was deflected past goalie Miika Wiikman by Gerard Hanson.
The Storm advantage was doubled with an unassisted Luke Moffat goal after 15mins 29secs – the first of his four goals – to put Manchester in charge at the first break.
A clash between Hook and Ehrhardt – both penalised for slashing at 21mins 49secs – led to Manchester extending their lead through Moffat after 23mins 38secs.
It was not long before Wiikman conceded again when Matt Beca struck on 25mins 10secs.
Within 27 seconds it was 5-0 as Moffat bagged his hat-trick, signalling the end of Wiikman’s involvement after a timeout by Russell.
Przemy Odrobny took over in between the pipes and he was beaten when Lightning’s sixth goal on 29mins 57secs – again through Moffat.
In reality the game was already lost but Lightning did have a chance or two before the period end – Kearney’s attempt being snuffed out as the net came off its moorings.
Ciaran Long went to the sin bin within 40 seconds of the start of the final period giving MK a powerplay and Ben Foster saw goalie Mike Clemente make a big glove save to deny him.
Kyle Essery failed to beat the netminder shortly after and Hook tried to set up Alex Forbes without success in an improved period for Lightning while Odrobny stopped a fine Manchester chance.
It was a night to forget in the suburbs of Manchester with Lightning hoping for the return of their wounded as soon as possible.