Captain and man of the match Adam Carr supplied the spark to steer MK Lightning to a well earned 6-4 English Premier League victory over Manchester Phoenix at MK Arena on Wednesday and put them back at the top of the table.
After failing to convert any of their four powerplay chances the Lightning looked as though they would have to be content going into the break with scores level pegging.
That was until Rene Jarolin sent Carr away up the right to find a gap beyond netminder Stephen Fone on 17mins 23secs – the goalie having performed heroics to keep Lightning out up until that point.
With his resistance broken Fone was swiftly picking the puck out of the net with 2mins 16secs of the session remaining. This time his luck ran out as Leigh Jamieson made the pass for Carr to cross from the right – the puck being deflected into the goal by Fone.
Pete Russell’s men had their first powerplay opportunity after only 2mins 21secs when Trent Hope – the son of former Cardiff Devils’ legend Shannon Hope – was called for tripping. Despite lots of pressure on the Manchester net the home side could not find a way through – Bobby Chamberlain, Markku Tahtinen and Jamieson in particular being unlucky not to register.
Luke Boothroyd was next in the sin bin for hooking – that powerplay was quickly extinguished when MK goalie Jordan Marr was caught delaying the game at a face off to his right.
Mideway through the period Phoenix ran into double penalty trouble as Michal Satek was sent to the cooler for roughing, swiftly followed by James Neil for holding the opponent’s stick.
Despite the five on three advantage there was still no goal for Lightning – Jamieson having a blue line blast stopped by Fone before he shot past the post.
Back at even strength Marr was tested seriously for the first time by Robin Kovar before Lewis Hook, Jordan Cownie and Blaz Emersic all could have scored on a different day.
With the two goal cushion going into the second session Manchester would have been hoping to get back into the game quickly. Instead it was the hosts who added to their tally with Blaz Emerisc going up the right to supply Jordan Cownie number three 1min 2secs after the restart.
Still there was little response from Manchester and 3mins 1sec later Cownie’s behind the net pass to Hook was smashed into the net first time to make it 4-0.
That prompted an immediate Phoenix timeout which threatened to change the course of the game – Michal Satek making the pass from the right for Robin Kovar to beat Marr 21secs later.
Marko Luomala (pictured right) restored the four goal gap after taking a brilliant pass out of defence by Jamieson and – going one on one with the netminder – rounding him before slotting home at 31mins 13secs.
Jan Platil then sent youngster Matthew Maurice clear to beat Marr in confident style less than two minutes later on 32mins 54secs for Manchester’s second goal.
Tony Hand’s men cut the deficit to two goals before the second break when Nico Aaltonen’s pass from the left was directed into the net by James Neil after 37mins 41secs.
That signalled the end of Phoenix’s resurgence though with Lightning regaining control in the third period.
A three goal advantage was restored on 44mins 39secs with Cownie receiving Hook’s behind the goal line pass to send the puck flying into the Manchester net.
A 48th minute clash between Phoenix’s Jacob Corson-Heron and Tahtinen saw both despatched to the penalty box without further troubling the scoreboard.
It was not until Tahtinen was penalised on 56mins 9secs for hooking that Phoenix were able to find a way through thanks to a Kovar effort to make it 6-4 – Marr having pulled off an impressive from the same player only seconds before.
That was as good as it got for Manchester as Lightning retained their grip on the game to the buzzer.