Lightning end their losing streak as injuries strike
Milton Keynes Lightning broke a four game losing streak as they celebrated a 6-4 victory over Raiders at Planet Ice on Sunday.
But the win came at a cost with what looked like a substantial leg injury to defenceman James Griffin who had to be assisted off the ice 16 minutes into the first period.
He joined key forward Robin Kovar who sustained an ankle injury the previous night in the ranks of the injured. With Leigh Jamieson playing forward and defenceman Ben Russell still injured it meant Lightning were left with two pairs of D-men.
Despite that they showed resilience to overcome the Romford based outfit that had defeated them by an identical score at the Sapphire Ice Centre a week previously. MK followed that with a shock 4-1 loss to Leeds Chiefs on Saturday.
On Sunday Rio Grinell-Parke fired in from the right at 13mins 57secs to break the deadlock – the shot looking as though it hit the back of the goalie Ethan James before crossing the line. Just 25 seconds later the encounter was all square through Ollie Baldock.
Raiders’ second goal was down to a defensive lapse by Lightning who left both Blahoslav Novak and Olegs Lascenko unmarked –the latter supplying the former to beat Brandon Stones, making his first appearance since November 3, at 16mins 15secs.
Griffin’s premature departure came soon after following a clash with Jack Flynn – no penalty called on the incident. But Lightning equalised at 18mins 5secs when Grant McPherson sent Tom Carlon away up the right to beat goalie James to end the first period level.
A high stick penalty on Pitchley gave MK the chance to edge in front at 31mins 50secs with a powerplay marker from Harry Ferguson.
Raiders once more took advantage of MK failing to break up an opposition attack as Aaron Connolly finished off at 36mins 35secs.
But it was Lightning who ended the period one goal to the good after Flynn was sent to the cooler for elbowing Ferguson. It was man of the match Ferguson who deflected a Jamieson shot past James to make it 4-3 on the powerplay at 38mins 58secs.
Within the first three minutes of the third session Cale Tanaka went up the left and passed back to Cowley who rifled the puck into the net to give MK breathing space at last on 42mins 57secs before Novak found in himself in space to beat Stones for the visitors’ fourth goal at 45mins 12secs.
When Sean Barry was penalised for a high stick at 46mins 33secs Tomas Kana supplied Stewart to score the home outfit’s sixth 22 seconds later.
On Saturday it was not a night to remember when Lightning returned to the Coventry Skydome at Coventry on Saturday for the first time since their English Premier League Play Off victory against Telford Tigers in 2017.
MK went down 4-1 to Leeds Chiefs on a night made worse by the ankle injury to key forward Kovar who limped off after a quarter of an hour.
This was a home fixture for Leeds who are due to play their first home game at their new Elland Road rink on Friday. But with a double decker bus full of MK fans making the journey to Coventry – plus others travelling by car - it could have easily been mistaken for home game for Lightning.
However the MK army soon found their heroes out of salts as MK fell behind when Joe Coulter beat goalie Dean Skinns on 15mins 18secs.
MK had a disastrous start to the middle session, conceding twice in 12 seconds in the opening minute. It took Ethan Hehir just 35 seconds to double Leeds’ advantage and on 20mins 44secs MK were reeling when Lewis Houston’s strike made it 3-0. Coach Lewis Clifford called an immediate time-out but it failed to improve the visitors’ offensive chances.
Chiefs went further in front on 32mins 10secs thanks to Charnock – the 4-0 tally making it an almost insurmountable tally for MK to overcome. Their chances were further hindered when Tomas Kana ended the period in the sin bin on an elbows penalty.
MK finally gave their fans something to cheer about when captain Cowley registered after 45mins 45secs – the supply coming from Grinell-Parke and Tanaka.
By this stage Lightning had stepped up their game but it was too late to alter the result and when they failed to add to their score on a five on three powerplay before losing Cowley for two minutes on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Chiefs were able to secure the win.
Lightning will however be delighted with Sunday’s two points which saw them end the weekend still in sixth spot in the league but two points of Sheffield Steeldogs who lost twice.