Flames cool Lightning’s title hopes

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MK LIGHTNING’S seven match unbeaten run was brought to an end on Saturday as Guildford Flames punished some defensive slackness to win 6-3.

It was sweet revenge for Flames who were beaten 5-0 by Lightning in Surrey only a few weeks ago. But Lightning got back on the winning trail on Sunday with a 7-3 road win at Bracknell Bees.

Saturday’s loss dented Lightning’s outside hopes of retaining their English Premier League title - they remain in fifth place and have five games in hand on the top two sides, Manchester Phoenix and Flames who are 15 and 11 points ahead of them respectively.

Lightning got off to a great start against Flames as goalie Barry Hollyhead released the puck to Adam Carr who was still in his defensive zone when he threaded a pin-point pass through to Gary Clarke just over the half-way line. Clarke shook off his marker and sped away to beat away goalie Miroslav Hala at 6m 22s.

Any thoughts of another shut-out win were quickly squashed though when Matt Towe supplied Lukas Smital closing in on goal to level on 9m 10s.

Flames forged in front at 12m 34s when no one closed Nathan Rempel down as he raced towards goal and fired in high into the goal.

The final significant incident of the period saw Flames Neil Liddiard thrown out of the game after setting about Michael Wales who was despatched the sin bin for 12 minutes for roughing and misconduct.

The hosts made a good start to the second session when Adam Brittle shot in first time from Blaz Emersic’s pass from the right on 24m 37s. Lightning were unable to hold the lead with David Longstaff notching a wrap around goal after 27m 20s.

Flames lost a further player when Martin Masa was dismissed after drawing blood when high sticking Carr in the face. There looked to be little malice though intended.

But Flames’ fourth came when Hollyhead failed to hold a shot and Rick Plant was there to finish off on 45m 9s. Amazingly referee Dan Boardman called a penalty on Rempel for roughing Grant McPherson, a full minute before the goal.

Matt Towalski went solo to narrow the gap once again, coming from behind the net to score after 47m 30s but Flames replied once more with Smital getting his second as MK failed to clear their zone on 54m 44s.

Hollyhead was withdrawn for the extra skater after a timeout with 1m 17s to go and Rempel completed Flames tally on an empty net with nine seconds left.

Three goals in just over six minutes set up Sunday’s success at Bracknell. Bees’ Scott Spearing was penalised for holding in the ninth minute with Clarke netting on the powerplay on 10m exactly.

Just three minutes later Andre Smulter was on target for the second and he had a hand in the third with an assist - when Grant McPherson finished off at 16m 25s.

There were fisticuffs early in the second session when Michal Pinc encountered McPherson - both players eventually thrown out for continuing the conflict while in the sin bin.

Grant Rounding finally got Bracknell off the mark after 31m 10s but Towalski netted unassisted to make it 4-1 to Lightning at 32m 59s and Clarke then set up Smulter’s second after 37m 11s. Only 14s later Bees’ Craig Tribe got his team’s second.

Again though the lead was stretched when Smulter finished his hat-trick at 43m 24s before Clarke got the seventh on 52m 41s.

Then as the game went into the final four minutes the visitors found themselves two players down with Ross Green and Lukas Zatopek sitting out penalties, giving Bees the opportunity score on the powerplay through Sam Waller at 58m 23s.

This Saturday Lightning make the rip to Slough Jets at 6.30pm before entertaining Basingstoke Bison at Planet Ince at 5.30pm on Sunday.