Sometimes your best isn’t quite good enough and that was the case on Saturday when MK Lightning were beaten but not disgraced by big-spending Telford Tigers in a 6-3 loss.
Lightning matched their opponents for speed and skill and were probably only undone by two mistakes made under pressure at the start of the third period.
Tigers - boasting four players who were on the rosters of Elite League teams last season - were leading 4-2 at the start of the final session. They quickly added to that score to make it 6-2 and effectively put the game out of Lightning’s reach.
The result was put into perspective the next day when table-topping Tigers beat second placed Basingstoke Bison 6-1.
Saturday’s encounter will have taught the city side some lessons and they were undaunted in swiftly putting the result behind them with a superb 3-1 win at Swindon Wildcats the following night. It was the first time in five meetings between the two that Nick Poole’s men had finished on top.
On Saturday Tigers took a 2-0 lead after creating much of the early pressure with former Hull Stingray Jason Silverthorn testing goalie Stephen Wall in the first few seconds and Scott McKenzie having his long range effort saved soon after.
It was the classy Silverthorn who put Tigers in front after 9mins 58secs after he was put clear on the right by Martin Ondrej.
The visitors doubled the advantage after 13mins 47secs when Max Birbraer supplied Dan Davis who unleashed a top shelf shot which went to Wall’s far side.
Lightning then had a five on three powerplay chance when both Birbraer and Ondrej were sin binned in quick succession for hooking and roughing. Birbraer had returned to the ice when, with one man over, Michael Farn fired from the blue line for Lewis Hook to redirect the puck past another former Elite League player, goalie Steve Lyle on 16mins 22secs.
The two goal lead was restored for Tigers on 24mins 30secs with McKenzie’s shot through traffic eluding Wall.
The game slipped further from Lightning when Wall could only parry Adam Taylor’s effort as far as the waiting Rick Plant who followed up at 32mins 40secs.
But Lightning were not finished and they gained a goal back as Milan Kostourek shot through the goalie’s legs at 33mins 50secs.
They almost had a third goal in the 36th minute but Blaz Emersic’s shot was washed out - the puck clearly having crossed the line after Lyle knocked the net off its moorings.
The defining moments arrived in the first couple of minutes of the third session - Lightning’s defensive efforts to clear the puck after Wall was committed dealing with Nathan Salem’s shot ending up with McKenzie tucking it away at 40mins 50secs.
Just seconds later Lightning were under pressure again when Peter Szabo made it 6-2.
The hosts eventually regained some respectability to the score with just 0.1 of a second remaining when Hook touched in from Kostourek while the side were on a powerplay following the sin binning of Tigers’ Sam Zajac for tripping.
At Swindon the next day Kostourek was the provider for Stan Lascek to give Lightning the lead after 7mins 22secs.
By that stage the home team had already lost the services of Shane Moore on a two minutes plus ten minute misconduct penalty for roughing and incitement - Ross Green also serving two minutes for tripping in the second minute incident.
Kostourek was called for interference in the 12th minute and that gave Wildcats the chance to level through Tomasz Malasinski at 13mins 8secs - the recently returned Jonas Hoog the provider.
Both of the first two periods saw the sides evenly matched in terms of shots on goal - sharing 22 shots equally in the first and Lightning edging it 12-11 in the middle session.
But it was Lightning who were to take a lead they were not to surrender when captain Adam Carr set up Kostourek at 35mins 1sec.
The visitors increased their grip on the game in the third period - outshooting Swindon 11-8 and adding a third goal at 45mins 33secs when Hook made the pass for Emersic to beat Lyle for a 3-1 scoreline - the final result.