MK Lightning’s English Premier League title ambitions suffered a big set-back when leaders Telford Tigers stole an undeserved victory from under their noses at MK Arena on Saturday.
With ten minutes remaining Lightning were well in control with a 2-0 lead. But two defensive lapses let a largely lethargic Tigers back into the game to force overtime. MK’s heartbreak was completed when Doug Clarkson snatched the winner for the Shropshire team two minutes into the extra five minutes.
The point gained for Lightning will no doubt be useful but the two won by Tigers kept them at the head of the pile by a seven point margin – albeit having played a game more.
The following day Lightning retrieved a 3-1 midway deficit at Guildford Flames to force overtime and a 6-5 winner with defenceman Michael Farn’s second goal of the season 1min 41secs into the additional session. At the same time Telford were beating Swindon Wildcats 8-3 to stay clear at the top.
Saturday’s result left Lightning fans scratching their heads – wondering how the team had lost a game which they should have and deserved to have won.
Apart from a spell of five minutes at the start of the second session Tigers were forced on the back foot by a Lightning outfit which went ahead through Jordan Cownie on 10mins 44secs.
When Lewis Hook added to the tally with a shot high to the right of Tigers’ man of the match goalie, Sam Gospel, after 36mins 53secs it seemed that Lightning were well on course for two huge points.
Telford failed to up the gas at the start of the third period and that maybe lulled Lightning into a false sense of security.
Suddenly the game changed when Milan Kolena was given space to go one on one and beat goalie Przemy Odrobny on 50mins 11secs.
Tigers then made the most of piece of poor defending when veteran Rick Plant caught out Odrobny after 51mins 24secs.
In overtime Sam Zajac supplied the experienced Clarkson for the winner two minutes into the extra session.
At Guildford Hook bagged a hat-trick to become Lightning’s clear top goal scorer – taking his tally for the season so far to 24 – four ahead of Frankie Bakrlik who has hit a barren spell since scoring his last goal against Basingstoke Bison at the beginning of December.
The all-important match winning goal came less than halfway into the extra period with Farn following up his first goal of the campaign less than a week before against Bison.
Yet at the half way point of the game at the Spectrum Centre it looked so different after Lightning had surrendered a 1-0 first period lead to go 3-1 behind when Michal Satek – signed from Telford Tigers a few weeks ago – beat Odrobny in controversial circumstances.
The net appeared to be off its moorings before Satek’s shot crossed the line at 29mins 52secs. After discussion with his fellow officials, referee Stephen Matthews allowed the goal.
It was Hook who put the visitors in front while they were short-handed with Glenn Billing serving time for tripping in the 11th minute. Twenty-six seconds later James Griffin set the young sniper away to beat goalie Dean Skinns one on one at 12mins 10secs.
But the lead did not last with Flames retrieving the situation on the same powerplay thanks to Jens Eriksson.
The second session was only 2mins 31secs old when Leigh Jamieson was sin binned for holding the opponent’s stick. That gave Flames the chance to edge in front with the extra man Jez Lundin scoring after 24mins 3secs, before with Satek’s dubious third goal.
The visitors responded quickly with good work by Antti Hölli and Jordan Cownie making the supply for Blaz Emersic to send the puck past netminder Dean Skinns on 31mins 16secs.
By the second break it was all square following a hooking penalty on Tom Duggan after 38mins 49secs. MK were able to capitalise on the powerplay through Hook, provided by Bakrlik and Cownie at 39mins 13secs.
Hook carried on where he left off at the start of the third period after being supplied by Cownie and Jamieson – putting Lightning 4-3 ahead after 41mins 49secs.
Flames came back with an equaliser from Ben Campbell after 48mins 44secs and they retook the lead with Duggan registering his second at 54mins 46secs.
Back came Lightning though to equalise through captain Adam Carr sending the match into overtime after 57mins 18secs.
Unlike the previous evening the night was not to end in disappointment for Lightning thanks to Farn.