Vital four point weekend for Lightning

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Lightning bagged their first four point weekend since the end of November with two vital victories at the weekend to move above Sheffield Steeldogs in the league table.

With both Steeldogs and Lightning striving to avoid runaway league leaders Telford Tigers in the play-off quarter finals next month the result of the clash between the two at MK Arena on Sunday had added significance.

And it was Lightning who came away with the points thanks to a 3-1 win which followed a 4-3 success at anchor side Bracknell Bees the day before - the team’s first away victory since mid November.

Sunday’s result was all the more significant because Lightning were missing three defencemen - Ross Green who sustained a broken leg in training and the also injured John Connolly plus suspended Michael Farn.

With only three defenders Leigh Jamieson moved back to resume duties where he began his Lightning career more than a decade ago. And he did not look at all out of place, his assured performance earning him a deserved man of the match award.

Nick Poole’s men had a dream start against Steeldogs with Lewis Hook setting up Jordan Cownie to beat goalie Dalibor Sedlar after just 30 seconds.

Before the five minute mark it was 2-0. After Hook was denied by Tim Smith a Steeldogs’ attack was swiftly repelled as Ben Russell sent Milan Kostourek away up the ice to beat Sedlar in a one on one challenge at 4mins 22secs.

Few games between Lightning and Steeldogs pass without some of the physical stuff and it didn’t take long before Chris Wiggins and Andre Payette exchanged blows - the younger MK player the clear winner as both received four minutes in the cooler in the 10th minute.

Throughout the remainder of the opening period it was the home side who continued to have the better chances although netminder Stephen Wall did have to make a good block to thwart Tom Squires in a one on one challenge.

Petr Horava joined Lewis Hook in the sin bin within 50 seconds of the restart - Hook serving a boarding penalty hanging over from the first session and the import penalised for holding the opponent’s stick. However Steeldogs could not find a goal with a two man advantage.

It was not until 44mins 59secs that Steeldogs eventually broke Wall’s resistance after Lightning failed to clear the puck quickly enough from their zone. It gave Janis Ozolins the chance to score, setting up the prospect of a tense final quarter of an hour for home fans.

Although Lee Haywood forced Wall into a good save shortly after it was Lightning who continued to press and they were rewarded when Blaz Emersic won a face off against Payette in the Lightning zone. He fed Cownie who set Hook free up the right. He shook off his pursuers to send a great high shot past Sedlar on his far side to make it 3-1 on 52mins 12secs.

There was no way back for Steeldogs from then on.

A late powerplay goal secured victory at Bracknell - ending the team’s longest ever barren spell away from home. Emersic set up Curtis Huppe to score with 3mins 59secs remaining while Bees had Jake Pitchley in the penalty box on a slashing call.

Until that moment the game looked as though it was heading for overtime after an early two goal lead for the visitors was wiped out in the first seven minutes of the second session.

Although missing Green, MK were boosted in defence by the return of Farn. However he was given his marching orders just before the end of the middle session on a match penalty for spearing.

The opening goal came through Chris Wiggins who scored against his old team with the supply coming from Adam Carr at 11mins 13secs.

A little over four minutes later at 15mins 30secs Lightning doubled their advantage when John Connolly supplied Emersic to beat former team-mate, Alex Mettam.

It did not take long for Bees to dismantle the two goal cushion in the second period - Spearing setting up Lukas Smital to claw a goal back at 21mins 47secs.

Another Lightning old boy, Matt Towalski, set up the equaliser for Danny Ingoldsby at 26mins 40secs.

Bees then went in front on 32mins 7secs with Josh Smith making the pass for Ivan Antonov to score.

However parity was quickly restored when Carr put Lightning level at 33mins 43secs.

The third period remained goalless until Pitchley’s slashing penalty proved decisive with Lightning’s powerplay unit coming good when Huppe finished off at 56mins 1sec to make it 4-3.