Another up-and-down weekend for MK Lightning
Sheffield Steelers were left stunned by Milton Keynes Lightning for the second time this season at MK Arena on Saturday when Peter Russell's team inflicted a 5-2 defeat in front of a season record crowd of 2,467.
Wins have been hard to come by for injury-hit Lightning in recent weeks so this one was probably even more satisfying than when the city side defeated Sheffield 7-2 in November.
But Lightning’s poor form on the road continued on Sunday when they went down 3-2 at Guildford Flames – despite taking a 2-0 lead by the second break.
With goalie Miika Wiikman sidelined with concussion following a collision in the previous weekend’s game against Nottingham Panthers, Russell faced a difficult week finding a replacement. His search eventually ended with the recruitment of Wiikman’s back-up at Panthers last year, Jindrich ‘Henry’ Pacl who made his debut against Steelers.
And Pacl didn’t disappoint – pulling off a series of excellent saves as Lightning were outshot by a 49-26 margin. In reality he kept his team in the game at times.
MK opened the scoring when Lewis Hook supplied Guillaume Doucet to blast the puck high to the left of netminder, Ervins Mustukovs at 13mins 16secs.
The hosts couldn’t make anything of a 14th minute call on Joonas Rönnberg for cross checking but they maintained their 1-0 advantage at the first break.
As the second period began Steelers’ Levi Nelson was denied at close quarters by Pacl shortly before the same player gave MK a four minute man advantage as he was caught checking to the head.
Lightning made the most of it when Kevin King sent a rocket shot through Steelers’ defence for goal number two at 22mins 37secs.
The hosts were caught out as Mark Matheson made the pass for Brit Liam Kirk to shoot home from the left at 27mins 25secs to make it 2-1. And it looked as though the game was swinging Steelers’ way when the visitors equalised through Nelson on 32mins 7secs.
However it was not long before Lightning were back in front – Matt Marquardt being sin binned for roughing. An excellent shot from a tight angle by Hook defeated Mustukovs at 35mins 47secs.
Sheffield were made to pay again after Mathieu Roy was sidelined for delaying the game. With two players shielding Mustukovs, the Lightning captain, King, shot home from long range to make it 4-2 at 52mins 17secs.
Steelers withdrew Mustukovs with 1min 24secs to go in favour of the extra attacker. But the move backfired when Verreault-Paul scored unassisted with nine seconds remaining for a short-handed goal.
At Guildford the city outfit were unable to hold onto a two goal lead as Flames staged a third period comeback.
The game ended explosively with penalties being handed out to five players – Matt Nickerson, Carl Hudson and Denny Kearney for Lightning and two from Flames, John Dunbar and Jesse Craige. Nickerson was handed two match penalties for fighting and abuse of the officials.
Lightning took a first period lead on the powerplay while the hosts’ Jez Lundin was sitting out an 11th minute slashing penalty – Ben Foster hitting his sixth goal of the season.
Into the middle period Flames couldn’t make anything of a 31st minute penalty on Alex Forbes. They were made to pay the price when, back at full strength, Lightning punished them with a second goal on 25mins 27secs. This time the scorer was Doucet who seized on a loose puck after Carrozzi had been forced into a double save.
Nickerson received a decisive two minute tripping penalty from which Flames reduced the deficit through Kruise Reddick at 42mins 37secs.
Flames levelled thanks to a deflected shot through traffic when Kevin Phillips blasted towards goal at 50mins 18secs.
Just under two minutes later as Calle Ackered got in on the scoring act with the game winning goal at 52mins 15secs.
In the after match clashes Hudson received four minutes for roughing, Kearney two minutes for a high stick in addition to Nickerson’s penalties. Flames’ Dunbar was given two minutes for cross checking and Craige four minutes for roughing.