MK Lightning have it all to do if they are to win the English Premier League Cup – the one trophy that has eluded them during all their years in the competition.
They were sunk by a late Wehebe Darge goal which secured a 2-1 win for Peterborough Phantoms in first leg of the final at Bretton on Sunday. Under new rules introduced this season that gave the Cambridgeshire outfit two points to take into the second tie at MK Arena on Saturday – aggregate goals no longer the determining factor.
It means Lightning will have to win in regulation time to send the game into sudden death overtime.
Phantoms came back from a one goal first period deficit to level with MK in the second session before grabbing the winner on a powerplay resulting from a 51st minute boarding penalty on the home side’s former player, Milan Baranyk.
Lightning’s go ahead goal was also scored on a powerplay – Will Weldon in the sin bin for hooking when Antti Hölli and Frankie Bakrlik did the spade work for Jordan Cownie to beat goalie Janis Auzins after 9mins 42secs.
By that time Leigh Jamieson had already tested Auzins with a long shot from the left wing and seconds before his goal Cownie had gone close to opening the tally.
In the 11th minute the visitors had the puck in the net but the ‘goal’ was disallowed by referee Matt Thompson for a high stick.
James Neil was next to visit the penalty box on a 12th minute call for cross checking but the best Phantoms could offer was a Petr Stepanek long range effort blocked by netminder Przemy Odrobny.
Back at full strength James Griffin saw his attempt blocked by Auzins a few seconds before Neil was back in the sin bin – this time for interference. Again there was no way through for the hosts – Tom Norton going closest but he was thwarted by Odrobny.
Lightning ended the first period with a man advantage thanks to Scott Robson who was penalised for slashing but Phantoms kept the challengers at bay.
As the second session went on Phantoms found their stride and Norton and Robson had efforts blocked in quick succession before Griffin’s shot came off Auzins while Bakrlik had his blast saved by the goalie.
Adam Carr then found Auzins standing between him and a second goal for MK in the 30th minute ahead of Stepanek going on a two on one attack – Odrobny denying him.
Bakrlik shot wide and then had a second shot saved by Auzins soon after before Jamieson was sent to the cooler for holding the opponent’s stick on 36mins 35secs.
It was to be a crucial penalty because 39 seconds later James Archer set up Stepanek for the equalising goal.
Edgars Bebris threatened a minute or so later but Odrobny was up for the challenge and at the second period break the score remained 1-1.
Darge ended the middle session in the sin bin on a penalty which spilled over into the third but there was to be no further go ahead goal for Lightning and it was Bebris who went closest to adding to Phantoms’ score in the 44th minute.
A matter of seconds later a Stepanek shot deflected high off Blaz Emersic before Darge shot wide and Owen Griffiths’ effort did the same. Darius Pliskauskas was also off target.
When Baranyk was handed two minutes in the penalty box on 51mins 21secs Phantoms made the most of their advantage as Marc Levers and Norton had a hand in Australian Darge’s goal at 52mins 49secs.
Ales Padelek and Bebris both tried to build on Phantoms’ lead soon after but Odrobny prevented them from doing so.
There was further danger for MK when Griffin was penalised for holding in the 56th minute but there was no score on the powerplay. With 1min 33 secs remaining Phantoms called a timeout – 22 seconds later Lightning did the same and withdrew Odrobny in favour of the extra skater but it was all to no avail, the home side able to hold onto their lead.