Milton Keynes Lightning came within a whisker of achieving a shock result against Hull Pirates at Planet Ice on Saturday – eventually losing by the odd goal in nine in a 5-4 reverse.
Had it not been for a poor start which saw the visitors take a three-goal lead in the first nine minutes Lightning may have run out winners in their first National Ice Hockey League outing against last year’s play-off winners.
The following day Lightning ran Sheffield Steeldogs close at iceSheffield but ultimately came away 6-4 losers.
On Saturday it was a fight between Grant McPherson and Pirates’ Jordan Fisher straight after the third opposition goal that seemed to stem the travellers’ goal scoring. Unfortunately McPherson was injured and took no further part in the game.
By the third period it was Pirates who were on the defensive – Lightning outshooting them 12-7 but
in the end they fell a goal short having conceded to Pirates just 2mins 15secs into the encounter when goalie Jordan Lawday conceded to Lee Bonner and Bobby Chamberlain made it 2-0 at 3mins 28secs.
Pirates took their tally to three with Peter Fabus registering at 8mins 42secs. Seconds later came the McPherson-Fisher clash and although Pirates were still in the ascendancy they only managed one further first period goal – thanks to Fabus again at 14mins 5secs.
By then Lightning had already pulled a goal back with the impressive Ari Nähri scoring a solo goal out of nothing – winning the puck and going through almost unchallenged.
Within 25 seconds of the middle period restart MK cut the gap to two goals when James Griffin beat netminder Ashley Smith.
Despite Lightning improving as the game went on it was Pirates who scored next at 28mins 45secs through player coach Jason Hewitt.
Soon after the home side’s fight was rewarded when Cale Tanaka set up Tomas Kana to reduce the deficit to two again at 30mins 33secs.
The third period saw MK dominating long periods but reward did not come until 49mins 32secs as Tanaka fired past Smith.
Despite a timeout with less than 30 seconds to go MK were unable to find the all important game tying goal.
Two late penalties finally killed off Lightning’s challenge at Steeldogs after matching their opponents for most of the game.
Lightning were still in with a chance of taking something from the encounter when they lost Jordan Stokes for tripping and then incurred a too many men penalty with less than two minutes remaining.
Having survived a five on three penalty only a few minutes earlier Lightning were unable to hold out as Nathan Salem killed off the clash with 21 seconds remaining on the five on three powerplay.
The game was 4mins 11secs old when Kana was sin binned on a two plus 10 minute penalty for a check to the head and within seconds Steeldogs made the most of the man advantage thanks to Salem’s goal at 4mins 36secs.
It was all square after 14mins 44secs following a 13th minute penalty on Ashley Calvert for high sticking Nähri – Leigh Jamieson on target.
When Brodie Jesson was penalised for holding the opponent’s stick Vladimir Luka restored the home advantage at 17mins 41secs.
It was a further powerplay for Steeldogs that gave them the opportunity to edge 3-1 in front after 24mins 49secs through Calvert.
But when Craig Elliott was caught slashing in the 26th minute it was Lightning’s turn to make the opponents pay with a Cowley powerplay marker on 28mins 19secs.
MK couldn’t make a quick penalty on Cameron Brownley pay but they did draw level at 32mins 56secs thanks to Kana’s strike.
Lightning’s delight didn’t last until the second break though due to Alex Graham’s shot over the diving Lawday 19 seconds from the interval.
The visitors recommenced battle in the third session determined to level again and Kana made it 4-4 at 47mins 20secs.
Once more it was the hosts who edged in front after 51mins 11secs when Jan Danecek made the supply for James Spurr.
Lightning were not out of the game yet but their chances were not helped with two swift penalties on Tanaka for holding and Ben Russell for holding the opponent’s stick. The five on three passed unscathed but MK couldn’t hold out when reduced by two skaters as the game went into the final three minutes.
Salem drove the final dagger into Lightning hearts with the sixth goal for Steeldogs at 59mins 39secs.