Lightning’s return to Milton Keynes was bittersweet on Saturday as an over-time Sheffield Steeldogs goal meant they’d lose their first game back at the Thunderdome.
With a crowd of nearly 2,500 for the first ice hockey match back in town in 18 months, fans were in for a treat in the newly refurbished rink.
For the first period opposition player coach Andre Payette was up to his usual buffoonery, leading his charges into playing a niggling game which often spoiled the flow of play.
But once he was ejected on a match penalty for elbowing Lewis Christie less than four minutes into the second period Steeldogs showed they are a team with skill as well. Unfortunately Christie was ejected with him - again with a match call - for spearing.
Sadly the encounter ended in heartbreak for the home side. Having levelled the game in the 49th minute man of the match Lubimor Korhon scored with less than a second of sudden death overtime remaining - registering from the narrowest of angles to make it 2-1.
It was doubly disappointing for Tom Carlon who was making his first and last match for Lightning at the MK Arena before leaving to take a job abroad.
Lightning coach Nick Poole switched Grant McPherson from the third line to the first to partner Leigh Jamieson and Carlon - that ensured he mostly was not on the ice with his chief protagonist Payette.
But that didn’t stop the Canadian Payette from trying to goad any Lightning player he could into an altercation. For the most part it did not work.
However it was McPherson who drew the first penalty on 2mins 54secs when he was called for hooking - Steeldogs only managing to threaten goalie Jordan Hedley with a Ben Morgan effort.
Stan Lascek and Steve Duncombe clashed behind the Steeldogs’ goal with less than seven minutes gone, the Lightning man receiving four minutes and his rival two minutes.
Lightning made no mistake when Duncombe returned to the penalty box on 16mins 43secs on a hooking penalty - Lascek netting from Jamieson’s supply within six seconds of the call.
The end of the first session saw the hosts’ on top in both in terms of scoreline and shots on goal - 13 to Sheffield’s seven.
The incident which led to the dismissal of Payette and Christie seemed to be something out of nothing - the Sheffield player ending up on the ice in a performance worthy of a Hollywood Oscar and then being assisted as he limped off the ice.
Thereafter Lightning seemed to acquire further dominance over the game with chances for Milan Kostourek, Lewis Hook, Carlon, Petr Horava and Adam Carr in quick succession.
Nevertheless the score remained 1-0 at the second break.
Steeldogs fought their way back into the game when Jordan Cownie was penalised for hooking in the 48th minute. Korhon drew a great save from Hedley but he could not stop Tom Squires from firing home on the powerplay at 49mins 1secs.
The goal sparked Sheffield into renewed action at a time when Lightning appeared to be tiring a little.
Despite that the home net remained intact, thus forcing five minutes of sudden death overtime.
The defining moment came with less than a minute left of the extra period as Michael Farn was sin binned for cross-checking.
A fraction of a second before the buzzer went for the end of play Korhon blasted home from the acutest of angles to seal a 2-1 victory for the visitors - leaving home fans disappointed at the result but still glad that their boys are truly back in town.
The following evening Lightning took a first period lead at Telford Tigers - the Manchester City of the English Premier League - when Kostourek netted after just 33 seconds, assisted by Lascek and Carr.
But they were unable to add to their lead and Telford staged a middle session fight back in style - scoring three goals in four minutes through Maxim Birbraer, Dan Scott and Joe Miller to take charge of the game by 25mins 41secs.
There was a brief respite for Lightning before Scott McKenzie and Dan Davies added two more in the 34th minute to give Tigers a 5-1 lead at the second interval.
The game was already lost for Lightning at the restart and they suffered another setback within 58 seconds when Miller set up Jason Silverthorn for a short-handed goal while Scott was in the sin bin for tripping.
Tigers then added their seventh goal after 49mins 33secs with Danny Rose finding the target.
The game marked the last appearance in Lightning colours for man of the match Carlon who, ironically, started his career in Telford. He leaves to take up a career in finance in the Middle East.
This Saturday Lightning entertain reigning play-off and English Premier Cup champions, Basingstoke Bison, at 7pm on Saturday. On Sunday they go to Chelmsford Chieftains - who have former Lightning stars, Dwayne Newman and Lukas Zatopek in their ranks. The English Challenge Cup game begins at 6.30pm.