Lightning still in with a title shot after wins

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.
Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

MK Lightning kept their slim hopes of lifting the English Premier League title alive with double victories at the weekend – including a fifth win of the season against arch rivals Peterborough Phantoms.

The 2-0 success at Bretton on Sunday was a timely morale booster as Lightning head into the first leg of their English Premier League Cup semi-final with Phantoms at MK Arena on Wednesday (January 13), face off 7.45pm.

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

It made it five wins from five league games against the Cambridgeshire team this term and lifted MK above them into second spot in the table – albeit their rivals having three games in hand on them.

But the win was not secure until Bobby Chamberlain snatched an unassisted goal with 4mins 6secs remaining while Lightning were short-handed as Blaz Emersic was in the penalty box for tripping.

Seconds earlier there was a scare for the visitors when Phantoms had the puck in the net. But the effort was disallowed as the goal was already off its moorings.

MK were without the injured Grant McPherson and Martti Jarventie for both the Phantoms clash and the previous evening’s 4-1 victory over basement club, Bracknell Bees – a game which never really sparked into life.

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

On Sunday Phantoms had much of the early pressure with Ales Padelek shooting wide before a Craig Scott effort was deflected high over the goal.

Late in the period Lightning exerted pressure on the hosts’ goal – a Glenn Billing shot went wide ahead of Frankie Bakrlik’s attempt being disrupted by Robbie Ferrara before Chamberlain was unable to make the most of an Emersic set up and the first session ended goal-less.

The deadlock was finally broken when man of the match James Griffin and Lewis Hook provided the assist for Emersic to beat goalie Adam Long on 23mins 19secs.

No goal resulted when Lloyd Gibson was penalised for hooking – the best of the opportunities being a Hook attempt which went high - the score staying in Lightning’s favour at the second break.

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

Lightning vs Bracknell. pics: Tony Sargent.

Bakrlik and Billing tried to break Long’s resolve in the opening minutes of the third period without success and the same fate met Padelek whose shot hit the post before Baranyk fired wide.

With less than 10 minutes remaining it looked as though the travellers would hold on for a single goal win – but Chamberlain had other ideas as he sealed the game with the second goal at 55mins 54secs.

Lightning’s win over Bees was despite a far from convincing performance.

It was not until the latter stages of the game that they looked to be in total command.

At the same time Bees – apart from Milan Kostourek and Ivan Antonov – offered precious little threat in front of goal.

Bees went in front on the powerplay after Lewis Hook was called for holding on 9mins 27secs – Kostourek feeding Antonov from behind the goal to fire in past netminder Dean Skinns three seconds from the end of the man advantage.

There was a swift response from the home side who levelled within 40 seconds when Markku Tahtinen set up Jordan Cownie to score.

Just over four minutes later Lightning went in front thanks to an Emersic rocket into the roof of the net at 15mins 43secs – Chamberlain joining the Slovenian’s attack on goal as decoy.

MK were unable to build on their lead in the second period as too many shots offered little to test goalie Alex Mettam’s talents in what was a largely subdued session.

Just before the half way mark Chamberlain had the puck in the goal but referee Dan Boardman rightly ruled the effort out as the net was clearly off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.

After Tom Relf was penalised for interference it was probably Bees who had the best chance while short-handed with Kostourek going one on one with Skinns – the goalie saving.

Bees failed to capitalise on a 35th minute roughing call on Tahtinen with Lightning still 2-1 in front at the second interval.

All that changed within the first two minutes of the final period when James Griffin set up Chamberlain to make it 3-1 from close range on 41mins 45secs.

It was not until 55mins 19secs that Lightning wrapped things up as Michael Farn and Griffin got the assists on Cownie’s goal.

Following Wednesday’s cup clash Lightning have head to head home and away encounters with Guildford Flames – at MK Arena on Saturday at 7pm and at the Spectrum Centre on Sunday at 6pm.