Milton Keynes Lightning’s league season ended on a disappointing note as they were shot down by Slough Jets in a 3-1 defeat at Planet Ice on Saturday.
The result was doubly disappointing for Lightning as they will face Jets in the home and away quarter-final legs of the English Premier League play-offs this weekend and they would have been hoping to get the upper-hand going into those games.
In the event, the city outfit were made to pay for their lethargy in the first period, when they rarely threatened the opposition goal. They managed just six shots on target in that time.
Indeed it was not until Jets had taken a two goal lead early in the middle session that Lightning finally sparked into life. However they could not get enough momentum going to claw back Jets’ advantage and in the final seconds conceded an empty net goal.
In truth the first period was nothing to write home about and many in the crowd would have been happy to have skipped it altogether with both sides reticent to commit themselves going forward – home goalie Alex Mettam only had nine shots to deal with.
Jets were on the powerplay when they broke the deadlock on 21mins 29secs – Michael Farn in the sin bin for slashing in a penalty hanging over from the first period. Ciaran Long found Frantisek Bakrlik out on the left and his blast went in between Mettam and the post.
A couple of minutes later Kamil Tvrdek was put away by Farn but the Czech’s route to goal was blocked while Adam Carr went close shortly after.
Jets caught Lightning out on the counter attack when Dan Scott sent former city player Matt Towalski away up the right. His burst of speed saw him beat Mettam, one on one, for the visitors’ second goal on 25mins 13secs.
A moment of skill from Janne Jokila created Lightning’s response. Taking on the Jets defence he jinked his way through before going round the net to set up Leigh Jamieson to score after 28mins 49secs.
From then on though Jets’ back door remained firmly closed despite Blaz Emersic being desperately unlucky from Jokila’s pass and the Finn was then the provider for Carr whose shot was blocked by goalie Gregg Rockman.
Ross Bowers almost had the puck in the net during a spell of Lightning pressure.
Earl in the third period Tvrdek saw his fierce shot saved and Jokila won possession in Jets’ half of the ice before skating through and unleashing a blast which hit the post.
But as the game went on it became apparent that this was not going to Lightning’s night.
A Jets timeout with 53secs remaining was quickly followed by one for Lightning – 44secs to go. That prompted the withdrawal of Mettam for the extra forward. And almost inevitably, it allowed Pavel Gomeniuk to feed Darius Pliskauskas to score on the empty net to seal Lightning’s fate with a third goal.
Lightning go Slough for the first quarter final leg on Saturday – face off 6.30pm – with the return game on Sunday at 5.30pm. At stake is a place in the finals weekend at Coventry – the venue for Lightning’s home games next season.