It was a weekend to forget for MK Lightning as they suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Telford Tigers and Guildford Flames.
A lacklustre performance against Tigers on Saturday meant they could not blame anyone but themselves for the 4-1 defeat – it was not until the final stages that they started to up their game.
The performance away at Guildford the following day was a bit better, but they still made no headway as they trailed by three goals at the second break and conceded a fourth in the third session as they were shut out for just the second time this season.
Not since the two losses against Basingstoke Bison at the end of September had Lightning been blanked over a weekend. And they suffered an extra blow at Guildford as defenceman Lewis Christie was taken to hospital and will be out injured for a while.
A broken collar bone was suspected but happily there were no breaks. However, he will be missing at the same time as fellow defenceman Ben Russell travels away with the Great Britain U20s.
Lightning failed to score on an early second period powerplay and were soon trailing by a goal when Tom Duggan was provider for Jozef Kohut after 26mins 25secs.
Lightning went two behind after 36mins 43secs as Duggan sent home Rick Plant’s set-up and 51secs before the second interval Duggan got his second goal, supplied by Kohut.
Midway through the third period Flames’ Neil Liddiard and Lightning’s Stan Lascek did battle, with the Guidford man being given his marching orders with a five plus game penalty.
A powerplay for Flames when Grant McPherson was sitting out a charging penalty put the hosts 3-0 in front as their player coach Paul Dixon supplied Kohut to beat goalie Stephen Wall to make it 4-0 at 56mins 8secs.
In the final 30 seconds there was a bout of fisticuffs which ended with McPherson and Ross Bowers receiving five plus game penalties together with Guildford’s Dean Holland and Andrew Sharp. And Leigh Jamieson and Flames’ Andrew Hemmings were each given four minutes for roughing.
Lightning were unable to produce any spark to defeat a largely average Telford Tigers side at Coventry Skydome the previous night.
With just one decent line, Tigers should have been there for the taking when up against the more talented, on paper, Lightning opposition.
But the hosts failed to get into anything like top gear until the final few minutes of the match and by then it was to prove too late to beat the Shropshire side who opened the scoring on 7mins 40secs when Walker’s skill saw him turn in a Kiviranta pass.
Tom Carlon went close in the first three minutes of the game with a shot which came off the pipework and that was the closest Lightning came to scoring in the first session – only managing five shots on goal in that time.
After Tigers scored there was no rapid response form Lightning who seemed to be getting pushed too wide of goal to make any decent scoring chances until Stan Lascek’s lifted shot was saved by goalie Sam Gospel.
There was some cause for optimism as Jamieson sent Janne Jokila free on the left and his cross-ice pass was met by Blaz Emersic to equalise at 23mins 3secs.
However, Lightning were still unable to engage a higher gear, even though they more than doubled their number of shots on goal in the middle period.
Jaroslav Kruzik had a chance for Tigers, saved by goalie Jordan Hedley, before Michael Pavlu put Jokila off executing his shot. Jokila was clearly frustrated and the next in the penalty box for hooking.
Carlon had a long range shot saved before Emersic made a fine set up for Bowers, but the Brit was on a different wavelength.
For Tigers, Walker brought a good save from Hedley before Lascek’s lifted shot went over the bar in the final minute of the session.
An early third period goal could have sparked Lightning into life, but instead Tigers went 2-1 up as Kuuluvainen passed to Walker to blast past Hedley on 44mins. And the visitors added to their lead as Walker supplied Kiviranta to score on 51mins 15secs.
Jamieson was penalised for interference with less than three minutes to go, wrecking hopes of taking off Hedley in favour of the extra skater. And Tigers capitalised on their powerplay with Kuuluvainen scoring from Kiviranta after 58mins 39secs to seal the game with a 4-1 score.