MK Lightning may be out of the English Premier League Cup but that hasn’t stopped them keeping up their battle for the league title.
Two days after losing out to Peterborough Phantoms 6-3 on aggregate in their cup semi-final Lightning suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat at league leaders Basingstoke Bison on Friday.
But on Saturday they got their show back on track with a battling display which saw them come back from being 2-0 down to Sheffield Steeldogs at MK Arena to win 5-3 with a pair of late powerplay strikes.
Now after eight games in 15 days – something which would have most Premier League football managers screaming in protest - Pete Russell’s charges have been allowed a few days off training to rest. Not that it will be total relaxation, for most have full time jobs as well.
The two powerplay goals on Saturday came at a cost though with import Markku Tahtinen being forced to leave the ice with an injury following the boarding by Steeldogs’ Steve Duncombe which gave the home side a five minute man advantage.
Tahtinen had missed the previous day’s game at Basingstoke due to flu and that meant Lightning started the encounter with only two imports – Martti Jarventie still ruled out by injury as well.
Bison’s win saw them tighten their grip on the league top spot. However the two sides still have to meet each other twice before the end of the campaign – both games at MK Arena.
Lightning fell three goals behind before snatching one goal back in the second session and then narrowing the gap to one with just under a quarter of an hour to go. But they could not level things up even when goalie Dean Skinns was withdrawn for the extra skater with 35 seconds remaining.
Ross Green drew the first penalty when he was given two minutes for tripping. From the resulting powerplay Bison edged in front thanks to former Lightning forward Rene Jarolin at 4mins 31secs.
Bison extended their lead on 24mins 18secs and again it was Jarolin on the mark.
Things got even worse for Lightning as less than 90 seconds later with Tomas Karpov scoring at 25mins 27secs to make it 3-0.
But Lightning did not give up and they got their chance after Miroslav Vantroba was sin binned for four minutes at 27mins 42secs – two minutes for a high stick on Frankie Bakrlik who was sent sprawling on the ice and two for abuse of an official.
On the powerplay Jordan Cownie’s attempt hit the post before he found the target on 28mins 54secs.
There was a glimmer of hope with 14mins 4secs remaining as Grant McPherson beat Baston to make it 3-2.
The visitors kept Bison at bay after a slashing penalty on Bakrlik in the 52nd minute but they couldn’t capitalise when Alan Lack was penalised for elbows with less than three minutes to go.
Two powerplay goals in just over a minute secured a 5-3 victory for the Smith Recycling MK Lightning against Sheffield Steeldogs at MK Arena on Saturday.
On Saturday it was the late, late show when Lightning’s powerplay go ahead goal came on 56mins 11secs after the puck rebounded off the boards behind the goal for Cownie to fire home.
Steeldogs’ goalie Dalibor Sedlar was clearly ruffled, but Lightning were in no mood for sympathy and struck again on 57mins 20secs when Bakrlik poked home at the left hand post.
Steeldogs had taken the lead after just 4mins 11secs when former MK star Stan Lascek got them off the mark with a shot high into the net.
Lee Haywood then set up Lascek to find the net after 8mins 33secs.
It was not until James Griffin and Lascek clashed in the final minute of the session that the hosts got a goal back on the powerplay – Leigh Jamieson the provider for Bakrlik nine seconds before the break.
The middle stanza was only 22 seconds old when Arnoldas Bosas was sin binned for four minutes for boarding – giving MK the chance to level at 21mins 50secs – Tahtinen redirecting a blue line blast by Michael Farn.
Lightning fell behind again following the 24th minute sin binning of Lewis Christie for holding – Andrew Hirst the Steeldogs scorer at 25mins 26secs.
Lightning squared things up when Farn went up the left wing to blast a beautiful shot high to the far side of Sedlar at 38mins 56secs.
There were no further goals until Duncombe was given his marching orders that the outcome was finally decided.
Lightning meet Steeldogs again on Sunday in Yorkshire following Saturday’s visit to MK Arena by Manchester Phoenix, face off 7pm.