Lightning went a long way to restoring the faith of their fans with a well earned 2-1 victory over Basingstoke Bison at MK Arena on Saturday.
It was the city team’s only game of the weekend and followed an 11-3 demolition by Swindon Wildcats three days earlier - a loss which led to head coach Nick Poole making an apology to supporters for the side’s performance which he described as “simply nowhere near good enough.”
The hosts’ started the game with four players missing - Jordan Cownie, Jordan Hedley and Lewis Hook who were in the Great Britain Under 20s which had secured World Championship Division 2 A Gold earlier that day with a game to spare.
Hook was player of the match in their final game - a 3-1 win over Estonia in which he scored twice. Cownie was voted player of the tournament and also picked up the GB Supporters Club best forward award while netminder Hedley made his first start of the competition.
In addition to the trio import defenceman Petr Horava was absent - away with his wife who was due to give birth. Lightning drafted in Chelmsford Chieftains player John Connolly who has Elite League experience on loan. Connolly did not disappoint with an assured display which prompted some fans to call for him to be kept permanently.
Lightning fought back to win after being a goal behind at the end of the second period against Bison as they showed far more fire and desire.
However there was, understandably, some hesitation in Lightning’s early play as they sought to ensure that they were not caught out in defence as they were on numerous occasions against Wildcats.
Chris Wiggins and Blaz Emersic’s combined effort put Bison netminder Dean Skinns under pressure in the first couple of minutes and the hosts were handed their first powerplay chance when Rick Skene was penalised for tripping Grant McPherson in the sixth minute. But the best they could produce was a Milan Kostourek blue line shot which was saved by Skinns.
When Lightning suffered a penalty call in the 10th minute when Lewis Christie was called for a high stick it was the hosts who had the best chance as Kostourek was put away by Adam Carr for a one on one with Skinns, but the goalie blocked the charge.
McPherson and Kurt Reynolds clashed in the 15th minute with both receiving four minute penalties.
Despite that the score remained 0-0 at the first break.
With Emersic in the sin bin for tripping on a penalty hanging over from the first session, Lightning found themselves under pressure with a man short, but never the less survived.
They could not hold out through after Christie was assessed two minutes for interference shortly after with Tomas Karpov on hand to follow up after goalie Stephen Wall blocked but couldn’t hold a Ciaran Long shot at 25mins 41secs.
Further penalties - on Wiggins for slashing and Skene for tripping - came and went with neither side able to take advantage. In truth Lightning were ineffective on their powerplay, producing little or no threat to Skinns.
As the third period got under way the home outfit tried to step up the pressure on Bison but the visitors had the better chances early on with Wall blocking a Long effort and then seeing off the same player in a one on one challenge.
It was not until former MK favourite Michael Wales was sin binned for boarding that Lightning were able to break down the Bison defence for the first time.
A fine cross ice pass from Marek Curilla on the right was met by Kostourek who blasted a first time shot into the back of the net after 54mins 5secs for a powerplay equaliser.
Buoyed by that MK then went in search of the go ahead goal and they go it when Curilla was again the supplier for Kostourek, again on the left hand side of goal, at 56mins 58secs.
Bison withdrew Skinns for the extra skater with 28 seconds remaining but they couldn’t find a leveller - McPherson ending the game with a match penalty for kneeing Joe Rand 11 seconds from the buzzer.
The loss against Swindon started brightly for Lightning with Emersic putting his team ahead by two goals before the seventh minute.
But after Wildcats called a time out it was all downhill for Lightning with the Wiltshire opposition taking a 3-2 lead at the first break with goals from Aaron Nell, Jan Kostal and Jonas Hoog.
Lightning’s defence collapsed in the second session when Wildcats struck four times in less than three minutes - Tomasz Malasinski with two goals, Henrik Sandvik and Hoog on target.
MK have two more games before having a 12 day break - Guildford Flames the visitors on Saturday at 7pm with an away trip to Manchester Phoenix on Sunday at 5pm.