Kearney leads Lightning to first Elite League four-pointer

MK Lightning vs Cardiff Devils. Pic: Tony Sargent
MK Lightning vs Cardiff Devils. Pic: Tony Sargent

Hotshot Denny Kearney registered five goals to stake a claim to bes voted Elite League player of the week as Milton Keynes Lightning enjoyed a double winning weekend.

American Kearney scored twice in Lightning’s 5-2 success over reigning league champions Cardiff Devils at MK Arena on Saturday and followed that up with a hat-trick at Coventry Blaze on Sunday to steer his team to a 7-4 win – both games Challenge Cup encounters.

MK Lightning vs Cardiff Devils. Pic: Tony Sargent

MK Lightning vs Cardiff Devils. Pic: Tony Sargent

The victories in which Kearney was man of the match in both games put Lightning top of their group – although at this early stage that means little – and sent out a warning that the Elite newcomers mean business.

On Saturday Lightning welcomed back Prezmy Odrobny in between the pipework following injury while Jonathan Boxill made his first start of the season after being ruled out through injury.

Three second period goals put Lightning in command over the side from the Welsh capital after former Devil, Guillaume Doucet, put them in front after 7mins 7secs following Paul Phillips’ set up on the powerplay.

Cardiff got themselves back level before the first interval when Patrick Asselin struck on 18mins 27secs.

Coventry Blaze vs MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent

Coventry Blaze vs MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent

Two minutes 29secs into the middle period Phillips and Ben Foster had the assists on another go ahead goal from the home outfit - this time it was defenceman Carl Hudson, also a former Devil, whose big blast defeated goalie Ben Bowns.

Lightning made the most of a five on three powerplay advantage as Denny Kearney, yet another ex-Cardiff man, increased the gap to two goals - ably aided by Hudson and Doucet at 27mins 39secs.

The same scorer took his tally to two for the night on 32mins 26secs - Doucet and Verreault-Paul being the helpers.

There was a brief moment of hope for Devils early in the third period when they added a second goal through Sean Bentivoglio after 43mins 12secs.

Coventry Blaze vs MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent

Coventry Blaze vs MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent

Lightning extended their tally to five on 56mins 31secs when Christian Isackson supplied Ludwig Karlsson to send the puck past Bowns.

The Coventry win meant that Lightning completed their first four point weekend of the campaign.

Miika Wiikman was given the start in the Lightning net and it was he who was first to be picking the puck out of the goal when former Peterborough Phantom Luke Ferrara scored after just 1min 52secs.

But from then on it was mainly all downhill for the Skydome team as Pete Russell’s charges stunned them with three goals in just over four minutes to go 3-1 in front by 10mins 58secs.

Captain Kevin King celebrated his return after suspension with the equaliser on 6mins 42secs following the supply from Kevin Gibson and Ludwig Karlsson.

Francis Verreault-Paul and Kearney had a hand in Doucet’s marker on 8mins 10secs with Karlsson registering a goal of his own after 10mins 58secs. King and Matt Nickerson had the assists on that goal.

Lightning rounded out the period with the first of Kearney’s three – contributors Hudson and Verreault-Paul – two minutes nine seconds before the interval.

Coventry couldn’t resist the on-fire Kearney who found the net again on 31mins 31secs to make it 5-1 at the second intermission.

Blaze cut the deficit briefly through captain Jordan Pietrus at 44mins 32secs.

But Kearney soon quelled the Skydome faithful’s joy, completing his hat-trick on 45mins 23s, thanks to Isackson and Verreault-Paul’s set up.

Blaze finally made the most of a powerplay when Ben Foster was consigned to the penalty box for a high stick after 47mins 45secs – scoring through Marc Olivier Vallerand at 48mins 53secs.

Nickerson was the provider for Lewis Hook to score on 56mins 24secs before Verreault-Paul and Blaze’s Kevin Noble both served time for roughing just over a minute later.

Blaze hit their fourth goal thanks to Robinson at 58mins 32secs ahead of the final two penalties of the night. Kyle Essery and Ben Lake ended their games early on two plus two penalties for roughing 1min 7secs from the buzzer.