Disappointing double-defeat for Lightning

Tempers flare against Guildford. Pic: Jez Tibbetts
Tempers flare against Guildford. Pic: Jez Tibbetts

Milton Keynes Lightning suffered the bitter taste of double defeats at the weekend and endured the agony of crashing out of the English Premier League Cup by the narrowest of margins.

On Saturday their powerplay units once again let them down as they went down to a 4-1 first period deficit against Guildford Flames and eventually lost 5-1. That result left their cup hopes hanging on the result of Slough Jets’ game at Telford Tigers the following day.

And until Jets snatched an equaliser in the final ten minutes of the encounter Lightning were still set to take the fourth semi final spot. That goal sent the tie into overtime and with it Jets secured the point they needed to overtake the MK team – Slough eventually won 3-2 on penalty shots.

As if that was not enough to take Lightning also conceded a goal to Manchester Phoenix in the last 10 minutes on Sunday – going on to lose 2-0.

The clash with Flames started in the worst possible fashion for Lightning with Andrew Hemmings and David Longstaff setting up Curtis Huppe to roar up centre ice and beat goalie Alex Mettam after just 1mins 9secs.

Flames doubled their advantage less than three minutes later as British pair Rick Plant and Dean Holland played a neat one-two in front of goal before Holland slotted in.

Lightning were struggling to keep up with Flames’ speed but there was a glimmer of optimism when Michael Farn and Leigh Jamieson supplied Blaz Emersic to net on 9mins 50secs.

That was to be the last time that MK would score in the next 1hour 50mins over the weekend.

But back came Flames when Branislav Kvetan set up Jozef Kohut to bag their third goal at 12mins 47secs despite the visitors being short-handed with Curtis Huppe in the sin bin for hooking.

Any chance Lightning had of a comeback were finally extinguished before the first period had finished with Huppe scoring his second goal two seconds from the end when Paul Dixon fed straight from a face off in the Lightning zone.

The goal signalled the departure of Mettam, being replaced at the start of the middle session by Stephen Wall.

Although Wall was able to stem the flow of goals against with Lightning having more of the play, the hosts’ failed to capitalise on three successive powerplay opportunities.

With 1min 55secs remaining on the period Flames wrapped up their win with Ben Campbell seizing on a rebound from Wall to make it 5-1.

As if that was not bad enough Lightning captain Adam Carr was ejected from the game after Flames defenceman Jez Lundin seemingly crashed into the board under his own momentum. Carr was given five minutes plus game for boarding – the penalty upgraded to match when Lundin failed to ice for the rest of the game.

That meant Carr was suspended for Sunday’s encounter at Altrincham against Phoenix – joining him on the sidelines was Michael Farn, out injured.

Manchester piled on the pressure in the first period with Wall facing 25 shots and his counterpart, Jorge El-Hage only having three shots to deal with.

However with the score at 0-0 Lightning were still in the game and nothing changed at the second break with neither side able to break the deadlock.

It took until the 53rd minute for the first goal to be registered – unfortunately it was Phoenix on the mark with Tony Hand the provider for Michal Psurny.

A minute from the end of the game Lightning withdrew Wall for the extra skater after calling a timeout. It was a move that backfired when former MK forward James Archer scored on the empty net with 48 seconds remaining.