IT never rains but it pours – not only did MK Lightning crash to defeat to anchor side Telford Tigers for the second time in eight days on Sunday, but they also lost top import Adam Calder with a fractured hip.
The Canadian is likely to be out for a lengthy spell after being stretchered off during the 3-0 loss. He underwent surgery in hospital later the same night.
His absence will be a big blow to Lightning who struggled to beat Sheffield Steeldogs 1-0 at home on Saturday night – starting that game without defenceman Dan Harris who suffered a head injury the previous weekend at Manchester Phoenix.
Neither injury is the kind of news Lightning need after a stuttering start to the English Premier League season in which they have already suffered six defeats in 12 games.
More importantly those games have also counted towards the English Premier League Cup, with a top four spot needed to qualify for the semi finals. The city side are currently sixth, two points behind Slough Jets in fourth.
The opening night 8-2 demolition of Manchester apart, Lightning have struggled to score goals this season, with player coach Nick Poole forced to try out a number of different line combinations to find the solution.
But now with Calder out of contention, further changes are inevitable – certainly the first line of Calder, Blaz Emersic and Nick Chinn has not been producing the necessary points. Chinn, for all his puck handling skills, has often been a metre off the pace going forward.
The second line has benefited most from the changes as Leigh Jamieson and Adam Carr have been developing a good understanding. And it was the second line that produced the only goal of the weekend when Carr fed Jamieson to smash the puck to the far side of Steeldogs’ goalie Dimitri Zimozdra after 9mins 53secs at Planet Ice on Saturday.
The game was an ill tempered affair with Steeldogs seemingly arriving with the intention of playing a physically aggressive game. Within minutes Lee Haywood went down under challenge from Chris Wiggins. And immediately Steeldogs’ player coach Andre Payette came on to seek retribution with Wiggins. The first bout of fisticuffs resulted in both receiving four minutes each spent in the sin bin.
Then came the goal before the next pair of fights as Ross Bowers took on Lewis Bell while Grant McPherson slugged it out with Craig Elliott – again all four got four minutes for their sins.
After the goal, serious shots on target were hard to come by, with Stuart Brittle setting up Andrew Hurst who couldn’t beat Lightning goalie Alex Mettam.
Mettam also easily dealt with a speculative long range effort from Edgars Bebris, while at the other end Zimozdra just managed to thwart Jamieson.
Chinn ended the period in the penalty box after being adjudged to have committed a roughing penalty on Steve Duncombe. And there was plenty to keep the officials on their toes in the second session as Ross Green and Lloyd Gibson exchanged punches – just after Ashley Calvert had roughed up Michael Farn right in front of referee Tom Pering.
Gibson was later penalised for boarding behind the Sheffield goal and that sparked another clash – this time Calder’s patience snapping with Haywood. Both protagonists received four minutes for their efforts.
In the 36th minute Mettam was forced into two great saves, but he looked to be in trouble with the third when Farn intercepted, knocking the net off its moorings.
With there still being all to play for in the third period, many fans were expecting further clashes between the two sides. But in fact the match settled down and into a more entertaining affair in which the action was mostly hockey.
Not that there were not occasions when things could have spilled over – notably Pavel Gomeniuk’s high stick on Wiggins and Payette’s blatant cross checking on Chinn behind his back – but Lightning were able to hold on to their lead for a valuable win.
Sunday’s game was in doubt before face-off due to ice plant problems in Telford. It did go ahead, but Lightning wish it hadn’t.
After goalless first period, Jaroslav Cesky put Telford in front on the powerplay 1min 20secs into the middle session – with Lewis Christie in the sin bin for interference.
Lightning were given three successive powerplay chances but failed to convert any of them before they ended the period a man short with Jamieson serving time for holding.
Although they survived that penalty they were unable to prevent Cesky from adding his second goal on 44mins 57secs after Lukas Zatopek was caught for a high stick offence.
Just 24 seconds later Cesky completed his hat-trick and there was no way back for the visitors. Worse was to come though, with Calder falling badly during a clash in the final 10 minutes. He was helped off the ice and taken to hospital.
Lightning’s chances thereafter were hampered by a series of penalty calls, and Tigers were able to complete a quick double in their first four point weekend of the season.
Telford remain bottom of the table, with two of their three wins coming against a Lightning side now sat sixth. This weekend sees Poole’s men take on Swindon Wildcats twice in 24 hours, away on Saturday night before Sunday’s Planet Ice showdown. And the action is coming thick and fast, with the visit of Slough Jets next Wednesday night.