Lightning leave Premier League in style with win over Pirates

MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent
MK Lightning. Pic: Tony Sargent

Milton Keynes Lightning bade farewell to MK Arena at English Premier League level for the last time with a comfortable final Championship Play-off victory against Hull Pirates on Sunday.

Players remained on the ice after the 6-2 win to say goodbye to the fans before the move into the Elite League next season. However many supporters will be following Lightning to Coventry Skydome for the play-off finals next weekend.

Despite the margin of the win it was not enough to put Pete Russell’s men top of Group B – Basingstoke Bison taking that honour with a 7-3 success at Swindon Wildcats in a game which finished after the final buzzer at MK Arena.

On Saturday Lightning suffered their only loss of the play-off campaign – going down 3-2 at Basingstoke.

It means that Lightning will face Group A winners Guildford Flames at Coventry in a semi-final rematch of last year’s final – aiming to reverse the fortunes they experienced then in a 6-2 loss. Basingstoke will face Telford Tigers.

MK raced to a 3-0 lead against Hull within the first seven minutes and extended that advantage to five early in the second session before Pirates beat goalie Jordan Hedley less than three minutes before the second break.

Hedley’s start over first choice netminder, Przemy Odrobny, meant Lightning could ice all five of their import out-skaters and it was one, Mikolaj Lopuski who put the side in front after only 2mins 11secs.

Pirates fell further behind after 3mins 46secs when Finn Antti Hölli was on target, aid by the players with whom he has perfected such an effective partnership over the past month or so, Lewis Hook and Jordan Cownie.

It was Hook who then took the tally to 3-0 on 6mins 47secs – the first of a straight hat-trick for him before Craig Scott set him up for the fourth goal at 15mins 59secs.

When Milan Baranyk supplied Hook for his third after 24mins 59secs it looked as though a double figure win could be possible.

But it was until the final ten minutes that Lightning hit their sixth goal – Pirates’ making it 5-1 through Ugnius Cizas on 37mins 22secs.

Nine minutes 55secs from the final buzzer MK found the net again – once again it was the Hölli-Hook-Cownie line, in that order, which was responsible to give a 6-1 lead.

Chris Jenkins replaced Hedley in the goal 1min 11secs from the buzzer before Jonathan Kirk scored to make it 6-2 unassisted with 29seconds left.

At Basingstoke the previous day Lightning started with preferred in favour of Frankie Bakrlik and he was involved in the opening goal by Blaz Emersic on 17mins 7secs.

Bison levelled the tallies at 25mins 57secs with the first of three goals in less than six minutes –Joe Miller beating Odrobny.

At 27mins 45secs Miller was again on target and on 31mins 38secs Joe Rand made it 3-1.

As the third period got under way MK tried to cut the deficit with a Lewis Christie shot which went wide, ahead of a Lopuski effort which was deflected high over the goal. Leigh Jamieson was also off target shortly after.

It was a cross checking penalty on Dan Scott at 52mins 32secs that finally presented Lightning with the powerplay from which they bagged their second goal when Cownie made the telling pass for Hölli to put into the net just ten seconds later.

First or second in the group the real battle is next weekend when Lightning will be trying to win the piece of silverware they last captured in 2005-2006, having won it for the first four years of their EPL existence.