There may be nothing for Milton Keynes Lightning to play for in terms of trophies but that does not stop them from doing their best to keep their fans entertained – particularly on home ice.
Manchester Storm became the latest visitors to Planet Ice to experience Lightning’s battling spirit when they fell to a 4-3 defeat in MK’s only game of the weekend on Saturday.
Lightning mathematically at least may be able to overtake Storm having narrowed the points gap to 17, but with bottom place realistically all they can hope for they still don’t roll over for the opposition in front of their home fans, even though the clash against Storm took a while to reach a peak.
The hosts edged in front on 4mins 57secs after Storm’s Chance Braid was penalised for hooking in the third minute. The goal by Michael Fine was a scrappy one set up by Martin Mazanec but no one will be complaining.
If MK supporters were hoping for a goals feast then they were disappointed – in fact the two sides couldn’t manage more than five shots on target each in the first period.
When James Griffin was sin binned for hooking in the sixth minute it was Lightning who produced the best chance, short-handed, as David Norris sent Fine away but he couldn’t beat netminder, Matt Ginn.
Manchester’s first real shot did not come until the 12th minute as Riley Stadel brought a glove save from goalie Patrick Killeen before top Storm scorer Mike Hammond and Robs Linsmayer both shot wide of target.
MK could do no better with Martin Mazanec firing wide of target late on. There was little improvement early in the second session – two Manchester efforts off target before Dane Byers saw Killeen push his next attempt away with his shoulder.
The home outfit doubled their advantage on 24mins 39secs when Andreas Valdix and man of the match Georgs Golovkovs broke away – the Swede making the pass to the Latvian who beat the goalie before slotting into the net.
Storm eventually got off the mark after 28mins 44secs when Byers supplied Brit Adam Barnes for a shot from distance which eluded Killeen.
That’s the way the score remained at the next interval, despite Storm appearing to step up the gas as the period came to an end – Lightning having a couple of threatening moves in the final three minutes with Golovkovs going solo and finding no-one to pass to before a Trevor Morbeck blast from the blue line was fumbled but then saved by Ginn.
A cross checking call on Harrison Ruopp came and went with no further goals for MK on the powerplay but, back at even strength, they stretched the lead to 3-1 when Nelson Armstrong’s long range rocket went high into the goal on 45mins 2secs.
Within a minute though Felix-Antoine Poulin set up Braid to register Storm’s second strike at 45mins 58secs.
Going into the final ten minutes it was Lightning exerting the most pressure, Robbie Baillargeon (twice) and Armstrong testing Ginn.
It was not until Declan Balmer’s over-zealous boarding of Harry Ferguson – earning the offender an early shower on a two plus 10 minute penalty – that the hosts were able to add to their tally.
Armstrong and Valdix were involved as Norris finished off to make it 4-2 on the powerplay at 56mins 35secs.
However Manchester were not quite finished – Byers bagging their third goal with 38 seconds to the buzzer to round off a 4-3 scoreline on a satisfactory night for Lightning.
The game was Lightning’s only game of the weekend and followed a midweek drubbing at Guildford Flames when the team’s only goal in the 5-1 loss came in the third period from coach Tim Wallace.