Cardiff Devils inflicted double misery on Milton Keynes Lightning over the New Year weekend – following up a 6-3 win in Wales with a 5-0 whitewash at MK Arena on Monday.
The victories extended league leaders Devils’ winning streak to 13 games while Lightning were shut out for the second successive home game – having lost 3-0 to Guildford Flames on Boxing Day.
At Cardiff Lightning attempted a middle period fightback after the league leaders had taken a 4-0 lead but in the return game – with Lightning missing first choice netminder, Miika Wiikman, they never looked like winning.
On Saturday Devils took the lead on 11mins 50secs when Matt Myers slotted home past Wiikman.
Myers was instrumental in Devils’ second goal which came on 27mins 49secs as his pass come shot was tipped in by Justin Faryna.
Penalties on Bentivoglio and Tommy Mele, both for roughing, were of no consequence to the score but Devils soon extended their advantage when Bentivoglio was credited with the goal as the final touch came off Jonathan Boxill’s skate at 31mins 6secs.
Lightning’s task became even more difficult when the hosts were able to capitalise following an unsportsmanlike penalty on Francis Verreault-Paul – Layne Ulmer registering on the powerplay at 34mins 15secs.
Exactly a minute later there was a glimmer of hope when Joey Haddad completely missed a pass in the neutral zone and Denny Kearney broke away to beat goalie Ben Bowns one on one.
With 3mins 11secs left on the period Mele’s behind the net pass to Verreault-Paul was delivered to Guillaume Doucet to blast in from close range.
But there was one more response from Devils – seconds after Wiikman was forced into a brilliant save he was unable to stop Andrew Hotham from making it 5-2.
Wiikman was completely unsighted with two players blocking his view when Cardiff took the tally to 6-2 on 55mins 12secs while Doucet was in the sin bin for slashing.
Back at full strength Doucet fed the puck to Mele to poke into the net to make it 6-3 on 56mins 22secs.
At MK Arena from the moment Cardiff scored in the seventh minute it looked unlikely that Lightning would have any joy.
Without Wiikman netminding duties were down to 21 year old Jordan Hedley was given his first competitive start for Lightning this season.
However blame for few of the Cardiff goals could be laid entirely at the door of Hedley who was probably unsighted on at least two while the defence was lacking on others.
Many fans feared the worst and those worries increased when Layne Ulmer supplied Sean Bentivoglio to stab the puck home on 7mins 6secs.
Lightning were unable to register on any of the four powerplay chances they were handed in the first period and it was not until the second session that Lightning incurred their first penalty – by that time Devils were two goals in front with Mark Richardson, blasting in from the blue line on 12mins 36secs with Hedley’s view blocked by traffic.
Before the end of the session Mele limped off after pulling up with a leg injury while Devils lost the services of Joey Haddad who was thrown out for spearing.
Devils forged further in front after Jonathan Boxill was handed a two minute penalty for slashing in the 32nd minute. Hedley dealt with a Richardson shot from the left but he could not stop an Andrew Hotham slapshot from the blue line – his view again being blocked by players in front of him to give Cardiff a 3-0 lead at 33mins 21secs.
If there was any vague hope of a third period recovery by the hosts then that was quickly extinguished when Faryna was able to dance his way through the Lightning defence to finish off past Hedley just 1min 44secs in.
That effectively killed off the game, leading to a strangely muted home crowd – even among the normally noisy Lightning drummers whose chants were reduced to a level only those immediately around them could hear.
A series of three quick penalties on Kevin King (tripping), Lewis Hook (slashing), Quinn Pompi (cross-checking) and Kyle Essery (misconduct) were punished by Devils’ fifth goal as Patrick Asselin set up Bentivoglio for his second of the night after 49mins 22secs – the visitors having a two man advantage at the time.
It was not a night to remember for Lightning who will be looking for a massive improvement when they meet Nottingham Panthers in the second leg of their Challenge Cup quarter final on Wednesday.