Lightning head to play-offs on top form

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MK Lightning go into the English Premier League play-off quarter finals next weekend buoyed by their first four point weekend since mid-January.

The city outfit finished their league campaign with a hard fought – literally – 3-2 victory over league champions Basingstoke Bison on Saturday before a 4-2 win at Hull Pirates on Sunday.

Lightning will face Telford Tigers at home on Saturday and away on Sunday in the play-offs with a place at the Coventry finals weekend at stake.

The encounter with Bison was an ill-tempered affair almost from the start. The visiting side were strangely unconcerned by the prospect of picking up injuries ahead of the play-offs and engaged in rough stuff which cost them Aaron Connolly who went to hospital with suspected concussion and a possible broken foot after taking a hit from Martti Jarventie.

It took just 29 seconds for the first penalty to be called when Bison’s Kurt Reynolds was called for holding the opponent’s stick.

Lightning made the most of the powerplay opportunity as Jarventie set up Jordan Cownie to beat goalie Tomas Hiadlovsky at 2mins 12secs. - the other assist going to James Griffin.

Fireworks erupted in the 11th minute as Grant McPherson and Declan Balmer clashed - both earning a total of four minutes for roughing.

Seconds later Bison’s Ryan Watt inexplicably decided to have a go at Cownie on the boards - ensuring he joined his team mate in the penalty box for roughing. And on the way to the sin bin he picked up an extra ten minutes for misconduct after his gestures to the home crowd.

MK could not break through with the extra man and shortly after Bison levelled when Rene Jarolin’s shot was blocked but not held by goalie Dean Skinns - Joe Greener seizing on the puck to equalise at 14mins 57secs.

The second session was only three minutes old when Jarventie was thrown out on a match penalty for charging Connolly.

That reduced the home outfit to four skaters for five minutes during which Cownie was hauled down en route to goal, being awarded a penalty shot. But Hiadlovsky stopped him from getting his shot away.

The second period ended with the sides still tied at 1-1. It seemed likely that there would be more of the physical play in the final stanza. When it kicked off with just 2mins 36secs gone there was plenty to view.

Leigh Jamieson did battle with Greener - the MK man receiving four minutes and the Bison player an extra two minutes on roughing calls.

Almost immediately there was a second encounter between Ciaran Long and McPherson - each being given four minutes for roughing while Alan Lack was thrown out on a match penalty for slashing Markku Tahtinen who went off injured. Watt was also given two minutes for roughing.

Right on the end of the powerplay Frankie Bakrlik fed Glenn Billing just inside the blue line on the right and his blast beat Hiadlovsky to give MK the lead at 47mins 36secs.

A classic Lewis Hook-Cownie partnership of old saw the Scot break up the left and supply Hook to make it 3-1 on 54mins 47secs.

But there was further drama to come as Skinns, making a rare mistake, came out of his goal to give Grant Rounding space in which to score at 57mins 50secs to make it 3-2.

The following day at Hull Pirates Lightning took the lead 14 seconds after the hosts’ Warren Tait was called for hooking at 3mins 38secs – Bakrlik supplying Blaz Emersic to score.

Hull-born Bobby Chamberlain returned to the Lightning line-up after missing the Bison game while Jordan Marr was given the nod to start as goalie. Tahtinen, injured, was absent, along with the suspended Jarventie.

The travellers continued to press as they went in search of a second goal but Lightning had just one goal to show for their efforts at the end of the first session.

Lightning made it 2-0 with Jamieson and James Griffin setting up Hook to score on 37mins 28seconds. That was the way it remained at the second buzzer.

There was a glimmer of hope for Pirates 1min 16secs into the final period when Pasi Salonen to beat Marr.

Lightning survived a short-handed spell and back at full strength Lightning bagged their third through Jamieson at 45mins 40secs.

Hull had a fruitless five on three powerplay advantage when Ross Green (holding) and Griffin (delay of the game) were both in the penalty box.

The hosts beat Marr for a second time through Dominic Osman at 54mins 53secs but Jamieson made it 4-2 unassisted with 1min 10secs left.