Telford Tigers inflicted the first shutout on MK Lightning in more than 18 months when they won 4-0 at MK Arena on Saturday.
Not since March 2014 when Lightning went down 3-0 to Swindon Wildcats while the city outfit were playing home games at the Skydome, Coventry, had they failed to score.
Against Telford a combination of very poor refereeing and the absence of five players – four of them on duty for Great Britain Under 20s at the World Championships left Lightning short of fire power.
Lewis Hook, Luc Johnson, Glenn Billing and Ed Knaggs were in France with GB while Jack Watkins was still injured.
Lightning were further hampered by referee Tim Pickett who failed to call at least one –possibly two – offences for which another official would have almost certainly awarded penalty shots.
They were denied a penalty shot when Frankie Bakrlik was hauled down by Marcus Maynard when clear on goal. The look on Maynard’s face after the offence, which drew no penalty at all, said it all – he knew he had been lucky to get away it. The crow reacted with a thunder of boos for Pickett.
To rub salt into the wound Tigers immediately added a third goal through Phil Hill at 37mins 47secs.
Bakrlik’s protests then earned him a 10 minute misconduct call – side lining him for the crucial opening minutes of the third session.
The most blatant of Pickett’s errors in the first period came when Bakrlik was sin binned for interference behind the Telford goal in the 13th minute – the official missing the initial offence which had provoked him.
Earlier Jordan Cownie had been hauled down when clean away on goal for another possible penalty shot. No penalty at all was given.
The game was a feisty affair from the start with Grant McPherson and Dan Scott clashing in the fifth minute.
Later Blahoslav Novak was caught elbowing McPherson – Martti Jarventie twice calling goalie Sam Gospel into action with long range shots with the man advantage.
Bakrlik was back in the penalty box on 17mins 50secs on a tripping penalty.
As the seconds counted down to the period buzzer Sam Zajac was sin binned for kneeing Bobby Chamberlain – giving MK a powerplay lasting 1min 22secs into the middle session.
But the hosts failed to make any impression on the powerplay.
Telford broke the deadlock on 28mins 52secs when Skinns was given no chance as Maynard fired towards goal from the blue line and Joe Miller got a deflection on the puck.
Further penalties followed in the 31st minute when Bobby Chamberlain and Novak squared up in an off the puck incident which saw both consigned to the cooler for four minutes.
Tigers’ Martin Ondrej followed his team mate into the box a few seconds later but there was no way through for the home outfit on the powerplay.
Instead when the teams returned to full strength Tigers registered again on 34mins 57secs when Rick Plant found Dale White to put the puck past goalie Dean Skinns.
Leigh Jamieson and Zajac were next to warm the penalty bench – both receiving four minutes for roughing with the latter also earning two minutes for cross-checking.
Lightning started the third period with a five on three powerplay after Phil Hill was penalised on the buzzer for bringing down Markku Tahtinen. But once more the hosts were incapable opening up the Tigers penalty kill units.
In a final, well we’ve probably lost anyway move, coach Pete Russell called a timeout with 2mins 36secs remaining and immediately withdrew Skinns in favour of the extra skater in a bid to gain a consolation goal.
It almost worked with plenty of pressure on the Tigers’ net but no goal ensured. Instead the visitors got a break with Joe Miller putting Jason Silverthorn away for an empty net goal to complete Lightning’s misery at 58mins 55secs.
The only happy note on the night was the news that Hook scored the winning overtime goal for GB Under 20s when they stunned top seeds in their World Championship division, Slovenia, with a 3-2 victory. Team-mate Billing was also credited with an assist on their first goal.