Lightning celebrate Cup final spot with five star performances
MK Lightning sent out a warning to English Premier League Cup final opponents Peterborough Phantoms by taking back-to-back 5-2 wins over the weekend.
Phantoms, coincidentally, are the visitors to MK Arena on Saturday for a league encounter. Lightning will fancy their chances having won three out of four competitive meetings with Slava Koulikov’s outfit this season.
MK go into the game in confident mood. Looking increasingly strong they sent Guildford Flames home on Saturday with a 5-2 defeat and on Sunday recorded an identical scoreline at lowly Bracknell Bees.
Lewis Christie claimed his first goal of the season and Frankie Bakrlik ended a scoring drought lasting nearly two months in the Guildford game.
Stay at home defenceman Christie rarely ventures past the offensive blue line and it was from there his fierce blast put MK 3-2 ahead 13 seconds before the first break. Czech Bakrlik then extended the home side's lead with a powerplay rocket shot 4mins 51secs into the middle period.
On fire Jordan Cownie made it six goals in four games when he registered on the powerplay to open the scoring after 13mins 16secs.
Straight from the resulting face-off, Flames went on the offensive with new import Kari Sihvonen sending a shot past netminder Przemy Odrobny 20 seconds later.
When James Griffin was sin-binned for roughing on 16mins 1sec Flames replied on the powerplay, although Ben Campbell looked to be offside as he put them ahead one second from the end of the man advantage.
Just 57 seconds later man of the match Milan Baranyk's fierce shot from the left beat goalie Dean Skinns.
Skinns was undone again less than a minute later with Christie's shot which Skinns probably didn't see until it was too late.
Another powerplay put clear daylight between the two contenders - Jez Lundin sinbinned for interference on Blaz Emersic - Bakrlik registering his first goal since he scored in the 2-0 win against Basingstoke Bison on December 2.
Lightning were unable to find a way to goal when Sam Godfrey was penalised for a high stick on captain Adam Carr early in the final session but that did not stop them effectively putting the game to bed soon after.
Baranyk went behind the net and fed Craig Scott who slotted in to the left of Skinns for Lightning's fifth goal on 44mins 58secs.
The next day Bracknell put up a brave fight but ultimately couldn’t match Lightning’s strength at The Hive.
Three third period goals – including an empty-netter after Bees withdrew goalie Alex Mettam in favour of the extra skater – sealed the points after the home side twice led earlier on.
Veteran Lukas Smital was first off the mark to give Bees the lead on 14mins 47secs – assisted by Shaun Thompson and Alex Barker.
Pete Russell’s men immediately went after the equaliser and they took only 62 seconds to achieve their aim with Scott and Christie involved when Emersic went one on one with Mettam before pushing the puck under the goalie.
As the first session drew near to a close Odrobny prevented Bees from edging ahead again with a glove save from Josh Smith – the period ending with Lightning dominating the shots on goal with 12 on Mettam and Bees managing just five.
In the middle stanza the home outfit went in front again, defenceman David Gaborcik supplying Luka Basic on 23mins 10secs.
Carr and Bees Josh Tetlow were consigned to the sin bin in the 25th minute following a spot of roughing ahead of Olegs Lascenko joining them for hooking.
Once back on the ice Carr levelled after 28mins 52secs from Baranyk and Scott.
The scoreline remained 2-2 at the second break but Lightning took the lead for the first time when Baranyk and Tom Carlon began the move which saw Carr double his tally at 47mins 19secs.
Baranyk claimed his third assist of the game – Cownie taking the other assist – as Michael Farn put Lightning further in front after 54mins 12secs with a fierce slapshot.
Bees called a timeout with 1min 33secs left and took off Mettam to allow them an extra out skater. The move backfired when Cownie took possession and advanced up the left hand side before firing into the empty net to make it 5-2 just 20 seconds later.
The result meant that Lightning closed the gap on Telford at the top of the league by two points, with a game in hand.