MK Lightning may still be six points behind English Premier League leaders Telford Tigers but their chances of overhauling the Shropshire team increased at the weekend.
Lightning recorded their first shut-out of the season with a hard earned 2-0 victory in an ill-tempered clash with Basingstoke Bison at MK Arena on Friday.
The win in the first Friday fixture in Lightning’s history was their only game of the weekend. Telford dropped two points in a defeat at Basingstoke on Saturday before registering success on Sunday. It means MK now have a game in hand over Tigers.
More significantly Telford have seen the departure of five players – including two key imports – since ‘restructuring’ after the club hit financial trouble which almost put them out of business three weeks ago.
However Lightning’s win against Bison came at a cost with both Bobby Chamberlain and Frankie Bakrlik picking up match penalties. Basingstoke’s Derek Roehl also received match for his fight with Bakrlik after the final buzzer.
Chamberlain and Bakrlik are due to serve their match bans this weekend when MK host Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday at MK Arena at 7pm. Ed Knaggs, Luc Johnson and Glenn Billing will also be missing – away on Great Britain Under 20s duty
Chamberlain was given his marching orders in the 14th minute for what appeared to be an unfortunate high stick on defenceman Jan Jarabek which drew blood.
That the game was a niggly affair was little surprise given the previous physical affair in Basingstoke a few weeks ago.
But it was not until exactly midway through the first session that referee Stephen Matthews called the first penalty when Bakrlik went for tripping. On the powerplay Bison made no headway with Michael Farn denying Tomas Karpov when a goal looked certain.
The powerplay was ended prematurely when Karpov was also called for tripping and as Lightning returned to full strength Milan Baranyk saw his shot blocked.
Chamberlain’s dismissal saw Lightning forced to defend five minutes short-handed – they did it with aplomb, Craig Scott blocking a Roehl attempt from the blue line before goalie Przemy Odrobny stopped a Ciaran Long shot from distance.
The second period was just 1min 24secs old when Lightning got their break through – Leigh Jamieson’s powerblast from the blue line diverted in by Bakrlik.
Bison found themselves a man to the good in the 26th minute after Craig Scott was penalised for a check to the head of former MK man Matt Towalski. Again though the powerplay was ended abruptly as Karpov was caught high sticking Farn.
Tempers first boiled over between Bakrlik and Roehl just over a minute into the second half of the game – the home player being the clear winner of the fight. Both earned four minutes out of the action.
It was a hooking penalty on Stuart Mogg that proved decisive in MK securing their second goal. Scott threaded the puck past goalie Tomas Hiadlovsky across the face of goal to Lewis Hook to tap in at the left hand pipe on 37mins 51secs.
Carlon became the second Lightning player to leave the game just 58 seconds into the final stanza for checking to the head of Long and being handed a five minutes plus game penalty.
Once more it was backs against the wall for five minutes for the home outfit and in the best of their attempts Towalski found himself skating into the brick wall that was Odrobny.
It was pretty much last chance saloon as Sam Jones went to warm the penalty bench for roughing in the 56th minute – Joe Baird failing to goad him into a fight and a more serious penalty. Bison just could not beat Odrobny.
As the game went into its final minute or so Declan Balmer was sin binned for roughing on Luc Johnson and that just about ended any hope Bison had of a late goal or two.
The action did not end with the final buzzer – Bakrlik and Roehl intent on some post-match entertainment with their second scrap which led to their match penalties