Lightning sting the Bees

editorial image

Bracknell Bees made Lightning fight every inch of the way for their nail-biting 5-4 victory at MK Arena on Saturday.

With nothing to play for but pride, having failed to qualify for the end of season play-offs, Bees refused to buckle even when the hosts established a two goal lead with less than six minutes of regulation time remaining.

The capacity crowd of 2,500 - many of them taking advantage of a ticket promotion in four city schools - then saw the Berkshire outfit hit two goals inside the final five minutes to force the encounter into overtime.

When the extra five minutes was unable to separate the two contenders it was down to a penalty shoot-out. Blaz Emersic then sealed the win for Lightning as the only scorer - Bees failing with all three of their shots. Milan Kostourek also had his effort blocked for the home side but it was of no consequence.

The win helped Lightning - with only one game over the weekend - close in on securing the seventh place they now occupy in the English Premier League. But Nick Poole’s charges are unlikely to be content with that spot as they aim to at least equal the previous worst ever place of sixth in the 2007-2008 season.

However they will have their work cut out with league champions Telford Tigers being the visitors on Saturday before facing third placed Basingstoke Bison twice the following weekend and then rounding off their league campaign with a trip to Peterborough Phantoms.

Phantoms did Lightning a favour on Saturday, beating sixth placed Manchester Phoenix in a shoot-out, leaving the Poole’s outfit level on games played but three points behind Tony Hand’s team.

They will certainly have to perform better than they did for much of Saturday’s meeting with Bees.

Captain Adam Carr was presented with a framed shirt to mark the 500 games he reached with Lightning the previous weekend at Guildford Flames. But Bees were in no mood to make life easy for the home side.

The visitors took the lead after 2mins 37secs when 17 year old Vanya Antonov - one of the best prospects in British ice hockey - won the puck in the offensive zone and went solo to beat goalie Stephen Wall.

Lightning immediately tried to hit back with Kostourek weaving his way through the opposition defence only to see his effort blocked by goalie Tom Annetts before Jordan Cownie, driving to the net, nearly set up Emersic.

Perhaps fittingly when the equaliser did come on 10mins 8secs it fell to Carr to blast home first time from a behind the net pass by Kostourek.

That’s the way the score remained at the first break although the quick thinking Kostourek was foiled one on one with Annetts, having skated up ice even before the puck was played out of defence.

Kostourek was also involved in another good chance with a precision pass to Carr which was then laid on to Curtis Huppe only for the Carr to miss the final set up.

It was Huppe with a blue line rocket shot who put Lightning in front at 30mins 25secs while the team had a five on three powerplay with James Galazzi and Sam Waller both in the sin bin for hooking and boarding respectively. Waller was initially assessed a match penalty for the offence on Grant McPherson but it was downgraded to game after the Scot was able to continue.

The lead did not last long with Leigh Jamieson being robbed of the puck on a Lightning attack - the turnover seeing Jake Pitchley set up Matt Foord to beat Wall with a top shelf shot on 38mins 45secs.

Wall had to make a fine save from Thomas Relf while Bees were on the powerplay early in the third session - Petr Horava serving time for holding - but no further goals ensued until 48mins 5secs when Michael Farn was the provider for Emersic to go round the net and somehow find a gap to score Lightning’s third.

When the hosts took full advantage of a penalty on Galazzi for hooking Farn the points looked to be in the bag - Jordan Cownie redirecting a Farn blast to the net at 54mins 44secs.

However the game was not over and just 29 seconds later Antonov got his second with a shot which just crept agonisingly over the line.

With 55 seconds remaining Annetts was withdrawn for the extra skater and it paid dividends when Radek Hubacek registered seconds later on 59mins 11secs - the effort a somewhat scrambled affair to send the game into overtime and eventually penalty shots.