A solitary point from a possible six in Milton Keynes Lightning’s three game Scottish road trip has left them anchored at the bottom of the Elite League.
Lightning have won once in nine league outings and have shown precious little sign of improvement in that time – most of the squad looking little better than that of a top team in the now defunct English Premier League.
Even the replacement of Finn Joonas Huovinen, who left last week for personal reasons, with American born Robbie Baillargeon failed to turn round the fortunes of Doug McKay’s team. They lost 4-3 in overtime at Dundee Stars on Friday before going down 6-4 at former coach Peter Russell’s Glasgow Clan and then 4-1 at Fife Flyers.
Baillargeon impressed against Glasgow with two goals to pick up the man of the match award in only his second outing for the side – providing at least one bright spot.
McKay has also added Scottish teenager Harry Ferguson to the roster to boost numbers after he failed to make enough impression in the lower National Ice Hockey League with Peterborough Phantoms – being released by their coach, Slava Koulikov.
The run of results has led to rumblings on social media about the future of McKay who says he needs time to develop the squad. Unfortunately with a tough month coming up including games against an improved Guildford Flames (twice), Cardiff Devils (twice) and Nottingham Panthers (twice) victories could be hard to find.
At Dundee, Lightning, who were again without the injured Ryan Lannon, David Norris and Georgs Golovkovs threw away a two goal lead. Once again they had to rely on former Sheffield Steelers pair Tim Wallace and Eric Neiley to score most of the goals – the other strike coming from Cole Shudra.
MK got off to a flying start when Neiley crossed for Wallace to score after only 44 seconds. Michael Fine set up Neiley to register from close in at 9mins 24secs.
That’s the way the score remained at the first break and indeed until 27mins 26secs when Lukas Lundvald Nielsen pulled a goal back for the home side. There was a swift reply as Nelson Armstrong got the assist on Shudra’s fine strike at 29mins 4secs.
Johan Andersson cut the gap for Stars after 33mins 7secs to make it 3-2 at the second interval. In the third period Lightning were forced on the back foot with Stars outshooting them 17-3 – eventually the pressure paid off with a game tying goal from Matt Marquardt with 4mins 7secs of regulation time remaining. That meant overtime with Francis Bouchard snatching victory for Dundee 1min 8secs from the buzzer – MK earning the extra point.
The following day’s clash at Braehead Arena was not so closely contested – Lightning gifting Glasgow a four goal lead by the eighth minute. Brit Craig Peacock opened Clan’s account after 4mins 26secs before, within 12 seconds, Brendan Connolly add the home side’s second.
McKay called an immediate timeout but it had little immediate effect because Connolly struck again after 7mins 24secs and less than a minute later, on 8mins 11secs Vaclav Stupka made it four for the hosts. That signalled the replacement of goalie Patrick Killeen with back-up Adam Goss.
Lightning provided some cheer for their travelling army of fans when Ballargeon took the puck past three Clan players to beat goalie Joel Rumpel to score on a powerplay at 22mins 59secs.
Clay Anderson narrowed the gap to two after 29mins 8secs but the hosts restored the three goal lead on a powerplay nine seconds into the third period – the scorer Rasmus Bjerrum. Just over a minute later Wallace struck to reduce the deficit again before Connolly completed his hat-trick on 44mins 49secs.
Baillargeon hit second goal with a great wrap around the net shot with 1min 49secs left but that was the best the visitors could manage in the dying seconds.
On Sunday at Fife the travelling team contained Flyers for the first period which ended 0-0. In a second period in which they outshot the United Kingdom’s oldest hockey team they took a one goal lead through Andreas Valdix after 28mins 28secs.
They held onto it until 45 seconds into the third session when Paul Crowder opened Flyers’ account. It was not long before Todd Dutiaume’s side went in front through man of the match Mike Cazzola at 41mins 20secs.
Lightning then faced an onslaught – being outshot 15-6 in the final session with Marcus Basara extending the advantage after 46mins 43secs and Carlo Finucci effectively ending any chance Lightning had with a fourth goal on 49mins 44secs.