A BLAZ Emersic hat-trick steered MK Lightning to a well earned 5-3 English Premier League victory at Swindon Wildcats on Saturday.
But just 24 hours later Emersic’s threat was nullified when Wildcats bounced back to win 3-2 at Planet Ice on a very frustrating night for the hosts.
Captain Adam Carr missed both games with a fractured hand while defenceman Ross Green was taken to hospital with suspected concussion at the end of the first period of Sunday’s match. He was released after a check up.
With both games also counting towards the English Premier Cup table, Lightning remain on course for a semi final spot – currently occupying third place.
But such is the highly competitive nature of the EPL this season, that Lightning can’t afford to make any more slip ups in their remaining cup encounters, beginning on Saturday with a visit to Sheffield Steeldogs who top the table.
On Sunday Telford Tigers make their second visit of the season to Milton Keynes – last time out they went home defeated 3-0 but that will count for nothing if Lightning are not on top of their game.
The city side came up short in the second game against Swindon largely because of their ineffective powerplay lines who demonstrated a real lack of imagination in trying to open up the visitors penalty kill units.
However, it all looked so different when Nick Poole seized on an error by Wildcats netminder Thomas Murdy to net the opening goal after just 40 seconds. Murdy blocked but failed to hold a fierce Lewis Christie effort and Poole had the easiest of chances to put the puck in.
Juraj Gracik then set up Leigh Jamieson for a blue line rocket shot which went high into the goal on 7mins 40secs. But the two goal gap didn’t last long as a mix up in front of goalie Alex Mettam’s net allowed Nicky Watt to grab one back for Swindon 58 seconds later.
Less than two minutes later the visitors were penalised for changing their lines immediately after icing the puck. Sadly it was a sign of what was to come for Lightning as they failed to get a single shot on goal even with the man advantage.
A further powerplay for the home side spilled over from the first to second sessions. But instead of capitalising, it was Lightning who conceded an equaliser when former Milton Keynes defenceman Shane Moore found Jonas Hoog with a long pass up the ice and he was able to beat goalie Alex Mettam one on one with just 47 seconds of the middle period gone.
Fifty-eight seconds later Swindon were ahead thanks to Aaron Nell whose first time touch on a Michal Pinc pass went past Mettam.
From then onwards the home side became increasingly frustrated as Swindon became more and more intent on just simply defending the slender lead they had as Lightning’s poor powerplays failed to find a way through on four occasions.
Their final chance came 2mins 55secs from the end of the game when Jan Melichar was caught out tripping Emersic. Lightning called a timeout with 1min 47secs to go and withdrew Mettam to give them six skaters on four – but still they were unable to score.
Poole’s men did found their goal scoring touch the previous day as Emersic sent Lightning on their way to victory at The Link Centre on Saturday when he converted Gracik’s pass after 28seconds.
And the Slovenian was on the mark again after just 2mins 35secs when Jamie Line was the provider.
Nell – making his first start for Wildcats after re-signing from Elite League Coventry Blaze – cut the deficit on 8mins 40secs, only for Emersic to this time turn provider for Gracik to fire home and make it 3-1 after 14mins 27secs.
The flurry of goals came to a halt until after the half way mark of the game – again it was Nell on target from Hoog on 32mins 27secs with Lightning responding swiftly after Wildcats’ Nicky Watt was penalised for tripping. This time Jamieson set up Adam Brittle on 33mins 57secs to make it 4-2.
Nine seconds from the second buzzer Nell completed his hat-trick to set up a tense final period which saw Emersic seal the points with his hat-trick goal after 51mins 2secs.
Wildcats pulled goalie Murdy off with 27 seconds remaining for the extra skater, but it was too late for an equaliser.
>> Lightning defenceman Ross Green has been picked in the Great Britain U20 squad to compete in the World Championships.
The news comes recently after it was announced that MK Storm U14 star Edward Knaggs has been selected to represent England in forthcoming tournaments in both Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The U20s travel to Germany in December to compete in the Division One Group A competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, best known as the venue of the 1936 Winter Olympics where GB won their only gold medal in ice hockey.
As the second youngest member of the entire Lightning roster, Ross has spent the whole of his career so far playing in Milton Keynes and has progressed through the ranks until his first full season with Lightning in 2009-10.
The 19-year-old’s first goals for Lightning came during the 2010-11 season, and he was recently named Most Improved Player at the club.
He said: “It’s a great opportunity and a real honour to represent your country at the Championships.
“Hopefully I can learn a lot from the experience to help improve my game for Lightning. It’s going to be such a high standard of hockey in Germany – we’re up against some tough opposition this year and it’ll be a challenge, but with the team we have, if we play well we hope to be medal contenders.”