IF there’s one thing that’s predictable about MK Lightning this season, it’s that they’re unpredictable!
Once again they failed to pick up all four points on offer at the weekend – losing the game most fans expected them to win and winning the one that most pundits would have thought they would lose.
The 2-1 victory over Guildford Flames ended the Surrey side’s 12 game winning home run stretching back to the end of October, and went some way to making up for the disappointing 3-2 loss against lowly Peterborough Phantoms at Planet Ice on Saturday.
It has been the tale of Lightning’s season so far – claiming at least 12 points against sides above them in the English Premier League standings, but giving up the same number of points to the competition’s stragglers.
Too often Lightning seem to have come down to the level of play of the league’s poorer sides, while raising their game against the more skilful higher placed outfits.
That was the case on Saturday when the game was just 2mins 18secs old when Grant McPherson and Greg Pick clashed – the Peterborough man having skated into goalie Alex Mettam. Both protagonists earned four minutes in the sin bin for roughing.
Phantoms took the lead before the five minute mark – at 4mins 50secs – as Jordan Cownie on the right was given enough space to make the pass to Will Weldon on the left of goal and crash the puck past Mettam.
The Cambridgeshire team had the better of the play in the opening 10 minutes with Lightning unable to make much impression.
The home side did get back in the game, however when afforded a five on three powerplay after Jozef Sladok was followed into the penalty box by Robert Ferrara.
The goal came in slightly strange circumstances with Janne Jokila kicking the puck to Blaz Emersic – the Finn then skating to the bench having broken his stick – before Kamil Tvrdek finished off at 11mins 51secs.
Phantoms were unable to make anything of two powerplays before the first break, the period ending 1-1.
And there were no goals in the second session – Tvrdek’s long range effort being the only shot of note early in the period before Mettam did well with a double save from James Ferrara and then Luke Ferrara.
Shortly after Robert Ferrara was ejected from the encounter on a five minutes plus game penalty for a high stick on Emersic which drew blood.
But despite the five minute powerplay – which became a five on three as Tom Carlon was caught slashing – Lightning could not find the go ahead goal.
They did eventually go ahead when they were awarded a penalty shot after Jokila was brought down bearing down on goal. Jokila took the shot and calmly slotted past goalie Damien King on 44mins 42secs.
But Phantoms hit back on the powerplay after Tvrdek was given two minutes for tripping – Ondrej Lauko hitting the back of the net from inside the blue line at 53mins 33secs.
The same player cracked home the winner from James Ferrara’s pass after 57mins 10secs to end Lightning’s hopes.
The next day Nick Poole’s men travelled to Guildford hoping to repeat the win they inflict on Flames eight days earlier.
They failed to score on their first powerplay chance – David Longstaff sin binned in the second minute for a high stick but they did take the lead when Emersic set up Leigh Jamieson on 8mins 28secs.
It did not take long for the home side to reply though with the visitors a man down while Lewis Christie sat out a tripping penalty – Milos Melicherik the scorer from Branislav Kvetan at 12mins 56secs.
That was the end of the scoring for the period and indeed for the next half an hour with the sides deadlocked at 1-1, and neither giving much away in terms of penalties, especially in the second session.
It was not until 1mins 23secs into the third period that there was a goal to separate the teams, and when it came it was Adam Brittle who was the supplier for Emersic to beat goalie Mark Lee.
From then on Lightning battled hard to maintain their lead – being outshot 10-5 in the final 20 minutes.
Flames could make nothing of the only two powerplay chances in the third period and even when they withdrew Lee for the extra skater after a timeout a minute or so from the end they could not find the net – Lightning holding on for a morale boosting win.
The city side remain fifth in the table ahead of back-to-back clashes with Bracknell Bees this weekend.