MK Lightning slumped to their seventh defeat in eight home games when they were convincingly beaten 6-4 by Hull Pirates on Saturday.
In Lightning’s only game of the weekend – and the last before Christmas – they were second best to an improved Hull side – a team that they demolished 11-0 at MK Arena only two months ago.
Since then, only Manchester Phoenix have been defeated on home ice.
In recent weeks, Hull have brought in a new import netminder, Martins Raitums, as well as new import forward, Pasi Salonen, together with Nathan Salem from Telford Tigers. Even so the hosts would have expected to have taken the points.
Instead the visitors edged in front early on and although Lightning were good enough to fightback to take the lead the first session ended all square.
Three goals from only four shots on goal by Hull in the middle period proved to be Lightning’s undoing and as the game went on the home outfit’s passing degenerated to a level where they were unlikely to find a way to beat Raitums again.
In the final session it looked as though Pete Russell’s men were trying too hard – desperate to get the pass away without looking who they were passing to. That meant that often Hull were able to intercept the puck and snuff out any danger.
Hull took the lead on 5mins 16secs with the softest of goals – however netminder Jordan Marr was possibly not to blame for it. Already committed from a block seconds earlier Tom Cobley got a stick to the puck to send it round the sprawling keeper.
Martti Jarventie had a hand as Frankie Bakrlik’s shot was pushed away by Raitums – the Finn getting a touch before Bobby Chamberlain fired in for the equaliser after 8mins 39secs.
For the second week running Lightning were the victims of some curious refereeing. Laine went down clutching his wrist but no arm was raised by referee Dan Boardman to signal a penalty. It was at least a minute before he decided that Bakrlik was the offender – giving him two minutes in the penalty box for a high stick.
MK went in front after Nathan Salem was penalised for roughing up Jarventie. Markku Tahtinen set up Leigh Jamieson for a blue line shot which looked to have been touched in by Bakrlik at 13mins 12secs - the Brit getting the credit.
Tahtinen was penalised for boarding Salem 28 seconds from the interval and Laine found space in which to shoot home at 19mins 50secs.
Within 25 seconds of the start of the middle period Hull were in front again – their fast start catching Lightning out as Josh Gent supplied Laine to beat Marr.
However the lead didn’t last long as just over a minute later Leigh Jamieson was the provider for Grant McPherson to score on 21mins 49secs.
Hull quickly retook the lead at 22mins 48secs when James Hutchinson put Salonen away to score, signalling the end of Marr’s involvement in the game as he was replaced by Dean Skinns.
Incredibly Lightning had 29 second period shots on goal compared with Hull’s four.
Despite that many of the Lightning attempts were hopeful ones which were unlikely to beat a netminder of Raitums’ calibre.
Just after the halfway mark Tom Ralph won possession in the neutral zone and sent a great powerblast past Skinns for the fifth Hull goal at 34mins 11secs.
Early in the third session Michael Farn went close and Lewis Hook should have done better when presented with a chance to score with a gap at the right post in the 45th minute.
As the period went on it was clear that Lightning were running out of ideas about how to beat Raitums and the Hull defence.
They did eventually close the gap to one goal after Salonen was sin binned for holding on 53mins 30secs with Tahtinen finishing off at the left pipe for a powerplay goal on 54mins 30secs.
Hull’s final goal could only be put down to bad luck for Lightning – the puck hit the referee’s skate en route to Laine who raced away to beat Skinns one on one at 55mins 25secs.
Lighting called a timeout with 49secs left and took off Skinns for the extra skater but it was too late to make a difference.