Milton Keynes Lightning brought the curtain down on their English Premier League era in the best possible way – as Play-off champions after demolishing Telford Tigers 7-2 in a final at Coventry Skydome that was more one sided than any MK fan could have hoped for.
Sunday’s victory, coming just weeks after their English Premier League Cup triumph cemented the team as the city’s most successful professional sports club with five play-off championships, three league titles and one EPL Cup title to their name.
The last time Lightning won the play-offs was in 2006 and in many ways the latest success was a far tougher one to achieve with the standard of the league having grown year on year since then.
But there was no doubt that MK fully deserved this title – they came out faster and harder than Tigers and from the moment Blaz Emersic’s first time shot from Craig Scott’s pass hit the back of the net after 6mins 2secs the Shropshire outfit were on the back foot.
The compliment was returned after 14mins 37secs when Scott turned in Emersic’s pass from the left to make it 2-0.
However hard they tried nothing would go right for Tigers – Jason Silverthorn had his shot turned aside by goalie Przemy Odrobny shortly afterwards, before Danny Rose saw his blue line effort blocked by the stopper. In between Antti Hölli’s blast was saved in the chest by Telford’s netminder, Jon Baston.
Corey Goodison incurred the first penalty of the game two minutes into the middle period, for tripping, and that spelled further trouble for his team as Mikolaj Lopuski set up Leigh Jamieson for rocket from the blue line which crashed into the back of the net for a 3-0 lead at 23mins 51secs.
Even when James Griffin received a four minute penalty – two for roughing and two for boarding, Sam Zajac given two minute for cross checking at the same time – Tigers were unable to break through.
Penalty over Jamieson shot from just inside the blue line prompting a glove save from Baston ahead of Silverthorn attempting to go round the back of the net only to find Odrobny blocking his path to goal.
Adam Jones was next in the sin bin for holding Frankie Bakrlik – Scott was again involved, making the pass for Lewis Hook to score on the powerplay from close range at 35mins exactly.
The chant then went round the Skydome: “We want five, we want five,” started ironically by Guildford Flames fans who, along with most of the rest of the neutrals, were supporting Lightning for one game only.
They soon got their wish when Scott who could have easily picked up the man of the match award sent Bakrlik away to beat Baston one on one for goal number five on 38mins 26secs – giving MK an incredible 5-0 lead at the second break.
Telford had just a tiny glimmer of hope when Doug Clarkson – who, for the most part, was well contained by the city team – managed to squeeze the puck between the post and Odrobny on 41mins 9secs.
But any optimism was quickly stamped out as Scott won the puck behind the goal and fed Bakrlik who skated round the netminder to register Lightning’s sixth at 43mins 47secs. Tom Carlon went so close to making it 7-2 after dancing his way through the Tigers defence before Matty Davies attempted to cross to Clarkson who completely missed the puck.
A delay of the game penalty on Jamieson gave Telford a powerplay on 51mins 43secs and they cut the deficit with Jonathan Weaver supplying Zajac to fire in from the blue line on 52mins 32secs.
However the five goal gap was restored after Sam Oakford was called for hooking Scott – it was Scott who exacted the perfect response, scoring on 55mins 22secs from Michael Farn’s set up.
It meant that Lightning fans, at least, could relax for the last few minutes and begin the celebrations that continued into Crosby’s bar and then back at MK Arena later.