Lightning record first shut-out of the season

Pic: Jez Tibbetts
Pic: Jez Tibbetts

After 18 long months on the road Milton Keynes Lightning will return to their home base on Saturday when the newly refurbished Milton Keynes Arena opens its doors for the first time.

Sheffield Steeldogs will be the guests for the 7pm face-off in a game which the opposition will certainly no favours to Nick Poole’s men.

Lightning are hoping the house will be packed to welcome the side back.

The return cannot soon enough for a Lightning side that will be buoyed by their first shut-out of the season in their final ‘home’ game at Coventry Skydome when they beat Bracknell Bees 4-0 but will be disappointed to have lost 3-1 to rivals Peterborough Phantoms the next day.

During their time at the Skydome Lightning have been severely hampered by lack of training sessions and, this season in particular, it has sometimes shown in the lack of understanding between players on the ice.

However there was a growing confidence once Lightning had taken a 3-0 lead early in the third session against Bees and there was cause for optimism once the squad can get some frequent training under their belts.

The two quick third period goals from Petr Horava ruined any hope Bees had of a comeback following Stan Lascek’s powerplay opener early in the second period.

And, with confidence clearly growing, Milan Kostourek then sealed the victory by dummying goalie Alex Mettam before slotting in the fourth in the dying minutes.

Lightning welcomed back Ben Russell from injury to have a near full strength roster for the first time since the opening weekend of the season - the only absentee being goalie Stephen Wall whose place was filled by junior Ryan Lubbock.

Lightning had the better of the play in the first period - doing everything but score.

Grant McPherson got the first shot on former Lightning goalie Alex Mettam inside the opening minute before Radek Hubacek tested the home number one, Jordan Hedley, MK’s deserved man of the match.

In the following minutes both Leigh Jamieson and Milan Kostourek were denied by Bees’ man of the match Mettam.

The first penalty came on 17mins 50secs when Vanya Antonov was sin binned for goalie interference.

However the home side were unable to make any impression on the powerplay and the first session ended 0-0.

The second period was only 3mins 48secs old when Bees’ Harvey Stead was penalised for hooking. This time Lightning made the most of it thanks to a blue line blast from Adam Carr which was turned into the net by Lascek on 24mins 32secs.

It was to prove to be the only goal of the period though despite the best efforts of Carr who had two attempts on goal after taking Lascek’s behind the net pass a couple of minutes later.

Bees’ best chance of levelling came when both Lascek and Jamieson were in the penalty box for interference and boarding respectively. However the Bracknell powerplay lines were unable to capitalise.

In fact they nearly conceded a second goal with Blaz Emersic agonisingly close after Lascek had returned to the ice.

Just 2mins 45secs into the final session Lascek supplied Horava from the right and he was able to round Mettam before putting the puck into the net.

Bees hardly had time to recover before Horava blasted in from the blue line with a shot which the goalie could hardly have seen to make it 3-0 on 44mins 17secs.

Cownie and Hook combined well soon after and were desperately unlucky not to have added to the tally.

Bees looked a beaten side when Kostourek was given time and space to pick his spot for the fourth goal at 56mins 9secs to bring the curtain down on Lightning’s nights at the Skydome.

The next day at Peterborough the city outfit were in with a chance for most of the game despite Phantoms taking the lead after 10mins 33secs when Luke Ferrara supplied Milan Baranyk to shoot past Hedley.

Lightning survived two short handed spells later in the period with both Kostourek and Russell called for tripping.

Goal number two for Phantoms did not come until Lewis Christie was sin binned for slashing in the 31st minute - Baranyk this time being the provider for Darius Pliskauskas to net on the resulting powerplay at 33mins 9secs.

With just over a minute of the period to go Peterborough had Marc Levers dismissed from the game on a five minutes plus match penalty for spearing.

There was renewed hope for the visitors on 46mins 35secs as Jamieson, supplied by Michael Farn, cut the deficit to one goal.

Phantoms lost another player, Alan Lack, this time to injury, which led to the ejection of Lightning defenceman, Horava, with a five minutes plus match call for tripping.

With 54 seconds remaining Lightning called a timeout and withdrew Hedley in favour of the extra skater.

It was a move which backfired as Phantoms wrapped up the points with an empty net strike by Baranyk just 12 seconds later to make it 3-1.