Three games in three days provided a punishing – and ultimately fruitless – schedule for Milton Keynes Lightning over the Christmas period.
Lightning lost all three encounters – going down 1-0 at Planet Ice on Boxing Day in the lowest ever score between them and Guildford Flames – both in the clubs’ English Premier League and Elite League eras before the Surrey outfit inflicted a 6-3 defeat the following day at the Spectrum Centre the following day.
There was no rest afterwards either when a long trip to Belfast Giants on Friday saw the city side lose 5-1 to the Elite League title contenders.
On Wednesday Lightning are on the road again when they make another long journey – this time to Kirkcaldy in Scotland to play Fife Flyers before visiting Dundee Stars the next day. On Saturday MK entertain Coventry Blaze at Planet Ice at 7pm.
Calle Ackered’s strike for Guildford with just over eight minutes remaining ensured there were no Boxing Day celebrations for Lightning at Planet Ice.
Ackered, the third top scoring Elite League defenceman, fired through the narrowest of angles to beat goalie Patrick Killeen with the only goal of the game.
Overtime and a possible penalty shootout loomed before Ackered’s goal timed at 51mins 47secs.
The first period saw a rarity in hockey with no goals and not a single penalty called during an almost uninterrupted encounter with fast end to end play that produced plenty of chances but none that really troubled either netminder – often both Lightning and Flames resorted to firing in from the blue line.
The second session was much the same with only a couple of penalties – one for each team – and it was a bitter pill to swallow when Ackered struck.
There was no such wait for a goal the next day after Flames struck early after MK’s Nelson Armstrong was sitting out a two minute roughing call and John Dunbar registered on the powerplay on 5mins 32secs.
Lightning hit back while the home outfit’s Brett Ferguson was sinbinned for holding - Robbie Baillargeon defeating goalie Chris Carrozzi after 13mins 13secs. But Flames took a one goal lead into the first break thanks to an Ian Watters strike at 18mins 10secs.
Flames extended their lead on 27mins 44secs through a Ferguson marker and it wasn’t long before three became four as Jamie Crooks beat goalie Patrick Killeen after 28mins 57secs.
The visitors cut the gap when Michael Fine found Andreas Valdix at the back post on 30mins 49secs – the second assist going to Georgs Golovkovs.
Flames stretched the lead to three again within 1min 40secs of the start of the final period after a second goal from Crooks.
When Jesse Craige was caught for a late hit on 47mins 10secs Baillargeon took 43 seconds to reduce the deficit after finding his way past two defencemen and then see off Carrozzi – Tim Wallace assisting.
Flames rounded off their tally through Evan Janssen with four minutes to go to make it 6-3.
Belfast found the net within 3mins 56secs of the clash at the SSE Arena when former Lightning star Lewis Hook put them ahead when he fired over Adam Goss, given a rare start in goal, on a second rebound and then Blair Riley bagged the first of a hat-trick to give Giants a 2-0 lead at the first interval.
Ivan Šijan was unable to catch Riley on a breakaway to score one on one with Goss after 28mins 30secs. Baillargeon gave up possession behind the Belfast goal when Riley fed Darcy Murphy for goal number four for the home side on 32mins 56secs.
There was finally occasion for Lightning to celebrate after 49mins 42secs as Golvokovs threaded the puck through to Cole Shudra to go clear on the net and shoot through netminder Tyler Beskorowany’s legs.
However Giants added a fifth goal on 54mins 37secs while David Rutherford was in the box for tripping – Riley supplied by Paul Swindlehurst scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal.
Any hope MK had of grabbing a second consolation goal was hampered by a slashing call on Andreas Valdix which ensured they finished the game defending a penalty kill.
Goss was awarded the man of the match award for Lightning having faced 52 shots. MK remain bottom of the league.