BATTLING MK Lightning banished the double defeats of the previous weekend to the history books with superb performances to take three points from four against Guildford Flames at the weekend, lifting them back up to third place in the English Premier League table.
After falling 3-1 behind at one stage at Planet Ice on Saturday, Lightning fought back for a 6-4 win. And on Sunday their hopes of a perfect weekend were only sunk by an overtime Flames goal at the Spectrum Centre – Lightning never the less gaining one vital point in a 4-3 loss.
They will need to maintain that kind of performance this weekend when they face Swindon Wildcats twice in two days – in Wiltshire on Saturday at 5.45pm and at home at 5.30pm on Sunday.
Swindon will go into the games buoyed by their shock 3-0 win at league leaders Slough Jets. Despite that defeat on Sunday, Jets stay top of the pile and three points clear of Guildford in second and Lightning in third, who both share 17 points with fourth placed Sheffield Steeldogs.
It is that kind of result which has led the English Premier League being the most competitive since Lightning joined it in 2002. With most teams having played at least 12 times, just four points separate the top and sixth placed sides, and only 11 between top and bottom.
On Saturday it was Lightning who got the opening goal when Matt Towalski redirected a Tom Norton blue line blast after 14mins 47secs.
Nick Poole’s men held that lead until the first break, but it was not long into the middle session that Guildford struck back – just 24 seconds in fact when Ben Campbell managed to get a shot in behind goalie Alex Mettam.
Lightning suffered two penalties in quick succession after that – the first they defended magnificently, but they were unable to keep the Flames at bay on the second, with a tripping call on Towalski leading to Flames player/coach Paul Dixon shooting home on 24mins 34secs.
The game looked to be slipping away from the hosts 1min 3secs later when Milos Melicherik set up Campbell for the Surrey outfit’s third goal.
However, when the visitors’ David Savage was sin binned for holding, Grant McPherson was able to capitalise for Lightning’s second goal on 29mins 21secs to make it 3-2 to the visitors – a score that remained at the next interval.
Lightning were quick to strike at the start of the third with Michael Farn finding Juraj Gracik to shoot high into the net after 46seconds.
The home team then regained the ascendancy with Adam Carr sending home Adam Brittle’s behind the net pass after 43mins 49secs. Back came Flames though with a fourth goal through Curtis Huppe after 52mins 2secs while Towalski was in the penalty box for a high stick.
With 2mins 40secs left Gracik put the hosts back in the lead with a shot from an impossible angle which went in off the back of goalie Mark Lee for a powerplay goal.
Flames withdrew Lee for the extra skater in a bid to get a last gasp equaliser, but it backfired when Leigh Jamieson blasted into an empty net from right in front of his own goal with 36 seconds to play.
The next day Lightning were made to pay for an early roughing penalty on Michael Farn with Greg Chambers shot home on the powerplay after 2mins 57secs.
It was level pegging though after 6mins 19secs thanks to Brittle who converted Adam Carr’s set up. And Brittle had a hand in Lightning’s go ahead goal 59 seconds from the first break when he started the move which saw Poole as the provider for Gracik to net on the powerplay.
An interference penalty on Lukas Zatopek provided Flames with the opportunity to equalise through Huppe on 23mins 59secs.
Lightning were not finished yet though and Brittle claimed an unassisted delayed penalty goal to put his side in front again after 34mins 6secs.
The only goal of the third period saw Flames given a lifeline when Campbell supplied Milos Melicherik for another equaliser 2mins 20secs after the start.
With no further score the game went into overtime, only for Dixon to break Lightning hearts with the winning goal on 61mins 13secs.