Manchester Storm gave MK Lightning a small taste of what life will be like in the Elite League in a challenge match at MK Arena on Wednesday.
However Lightning were not given the full experience of a top flight roster as Storm chose to rest some of their regular squad – playing just eight of their imports and instead including players from the National League sides Altrincham Aces, Widnes Wild and Blackburn Hawks.
Although the English Premier League team led 4-3 at the second break there was always the sneaking suspicion that Storm had plenty more in reserve. And so it proved as they upped their efforts in the final session, scoring twice in just over two minutes to claim a 5-4 win.
Lightning, meanwhile, were able to ice all of their six imports.
Storm may have immediately regretted the decision to limit their squad when Lightning stunned them with the opening goal after just 33 seconds – the shot coming from man of the match Craig Scott, set up by Blaz Emersic and James Griffin.
But it was not long before Storm currently in lower mid-table in the Elite competition hit back with goalie Przemy Odrobny caught out by Connor Varley's strike from distance, at one minute exactly.
Scott's goal did at least serve notice to Storm that Lightning would be no pushovers and for the remainder of the first period it was the visitor's strongest line up of mostly imports that got most of the ice time.
Varley threatened Odrobny after three and half minutes but this time the goalie was up to the challenge.
Glenn Billing then went one on one with netminder Phil Spanswick but shot straight at him.
It was Welsh born former Swindon Wildcat Adam Harding who gave Manchester the lead – scoring on the rebound after 13mins 27secs.
Lightning had the chance to even things up when Canadian Dallas Erhardt was sin binned for interference after 15mins 55secs – Blaz Emersic and Mikolaj Lopuski both having worthwhile efforts. Despite that the score remained 2-1 in Storm’s favour at the first break.
Manchester increased their tally within 1min 36secs of the start of the middle period as their player coach Omar Pacha supplied Taylor Dickin to score from close range.
But the home side were in no mood to let the opposition run away with things and Tom Carlon scored unassisted at the right hand side of goal to cut the deficit on 25mins 55secs.
Storm goalie Phil Spanswick almost conceded to a hard Lewis Hook shot before Scott – set up by Milan Baranyk – drew Lightning level at 29mins 28secs.
Pete Russell’s men then had probably their best spell of pressure with Frankie Bakrlik twice testing Spanswick ahead of Odrobny saved from Darian Dziurzynski.
Thirty five seconds from the second interval Scott and Baranyk were involved when Emersic made it 4-3.
After only registering a total of 13 shots on Odrobny in the first two periods Storm upped the gas to manage 20 in the third session – by which time Jordan Hedley was in between the pipes.
To his credit the young netminder who has had hardly any ice time this season pulled off some fine saves.
But he was finally undone after Dziurzynski’s blast hit the boards behind the goal and rebounded to Storm man of the match, Leicester born Jack Prince, to tuck away at 56mins 23secs.
With 90 seconds remaining Prince – who honed his playing skills in the United States – was on the mark again to secure a 5-4 victory for Storm.
Whatever the result Lightning management, and more importantly Planet Ice chiefs, will have learned much about the investment needed in the team to make the move into the Elite League next year.