A superb display from goalie Adam Goss played a massive part in Milton Keynes Lightning snapping a three game losing streak to edge out Coventry Blaze in the Elite League Challenge Cup on Sunday.
It rounded off what had been a disappointing time for Lightning who fell 4-1 and then 5-1 to Belfast Giants at Planet Ice in the Elite League on the previous two nights.
At Coventry Patrick Killeen was given a well-deserved rest after his exploits in the two previous games against Belfast Giants and Goss demonstrated to his former employers, Blaze, that he is a reliable back-up in turning away all but one of 37 shots to steer his side to a 2-1 win. Goss’s performance was enough to earn him the man of the match award.
Lightning were without the injured Georgs Golovkovs, David Norris and Joonas Huovinen over the weekend while Cole Shudra missed the last two matches after being suspended following a checking from behind penalty in the first Belfast game. Ryan Lannon was also ruled out of the final two games through injury.
On Sunday Coventry conceded what was to prove to be a decisive penalty as Luke Ferrara was assessed two minutes in the sin bin for hooking at 5mins 20secs.
Lightning took just 24 seconds to capitalise with the extra man as Tim Wallace put the visitors in front.
It was not until the 26th minute that the hosts got themselves back in the game when a blue line Nicolai Bryhnisveen blast eluded Goss. But Andreas Valdix restored the traveller’s lead at 28mins 56secs.
It was to be the last score of the game – Lightning surviving a penalty call on Owen Griffiths for tripping before Goss produced a couple of amazing saves to deny Coventry towards the end of the period.
Coventry will have been disappointed that they could make nothing of two powerplay chances in the final ten minutes.
First Martin Mazanec was caught tripping his opponent and then Clay Anderson was penalised for holding, but MK held on for the 2-1 success.
The result means Lightning still have an outside chance of qualification for the latter stages of the cup competition. They will have to beat Guildford Flames in regulation time in the final game in Surrey on November 4.
The win will have buoyed Lightning after two performances in which they were decidedly second best against Belfast who stretched their unbeaten run to eight games with the victories at Planet Ice.
On Friday Lightning could not contain a Giants team which boasted strength in depth while the home side’s only real offensive threat came, once again, from Eric Neiley, Tim Wallace and goal scorer Andreas Valdix.
Belfast took the lead through Francis Beauvillier after 27mins 51secs and at 30mins 53secs they doubled their advantage on the powerplay after Eric Neiley was sin binned for roughing - David Rutherford scoring.
Lightning pulled when Valdix shot home on 44mins 17secs before Cole Shudra – who had hitherto had virtually no ice time – promptly got thrown out of the game for checking from behind on 52mins 10secs.
Lightning found themselves defending a five minute penalty on which Giants capitalised twice. Guillaume Gélinas’ blue line effort on 54mins 10secs made it 3-1 and Rutherford hit his second strike at 55mins 42secs to wrap up the game for Belfast.
Belfast Giants then strolled to a weekend double over a poor Lightning at Planet Ice on Saturday – the hosts barely had enough players to ice two lines of forwards – one of the perils of starting the season short-benched.
By the third period Lightning ran out of gas – as evidenced by the shots on goal tally in which the hosts recorded just one shot on goal – a new low record for a senior Milton Keynes team.
Had it not been for Killeen’s heroics, Giants tally may have reached double figures.
Giants took the lead when Hunter Bishop beat Killeen on the powerplay after 5mins 33secs. Things got worse for Lightning on 11mins 49secs when Darcy Murphy registered.
Lightning had a moment of cheer when Trevor Morbeck found himself in space to fire past Tyler Beskorowany in the visitors’ goal on 18mins 40secs.
When Michael Fine was sin binned for slashing in the 28th minute Belfast made the most of it through Francis Beauvillier on 29mins 41secs.
Less than four minutes later the game slipped further away from MK as Dustin Johner scored,
Johner rifled in his second goal on the powerplay at 55mins 34secs to make it 5-1 to Giants.