After the agony came the ecstasy as Milton Keynes Lightning celebrated a hard won 4-3 win over Raiders at Romford’s Sapphire Leisure Centre on Sunday.
They did it despite being desperately short benched – icing just eight recognised forwards as James Griffin joined the list of the injured which numbered Grant McPherson and Jordan Lawday plus the suspended Harry Ferguson. Captain Russ Cowley returned to the line-up and Milton Keynes Thunder’s Logan Prince was also given a start.
The morale boosting victory was all the more sweet as it came a day after the disappointment of being edged out 4-3 by Bracknell Bees in a game at Planet Ice that Lightning had led until the final few seconds.
This time Lightning were off the mark as early as exactly four minutes when Ross Green’s coast to coast pass found its way to Leigh Jamieson who set up Ari Nähri for a top shelf shot to beat goalie Michael Gray.
Romford were given a route back into the game on 8mins 12secs when Lewis Christie was caught slashing - Marek Malinsky scoring on the powerplay on 9mins 12secs.
The hosts edged in front on the powerplay with a slapshot to inside the near post from Lukas Sladkovsky on 16mins 33secs to give Raiders a 2-1 advantage going into the first intermission.
MK started the second session with a powerplay resulting from an 18th minute call on Blahoslav Novak but nothing came of it and the score remained unchanged until Nähri, set up by Jordan Stokes, tipped the puck in for the equaliser on 27mins 18secs.
Lightning went in front when Tomas Kana was able to hold up the puck in the offensive zone long enough for Calum Robertson to arrive and plant it past Gray at 30mins 28secs.
Cale Tanaka was found guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct after a pile up in which he ended up in the net. That allowed Dan Scott to bring the home side level at 37mins 2secs on the powerplay to make the score 3-3 at the second break.
The deadlock was eventually broken after Novak was consigned to the sin bin in 53rd minute for hooking. Tanaka’s effort was blocked but Rio Grinell-Parke was there to follow up to make it 4-3 to Lightning at 54mins 22secs. And unlike the previous night it was a lead coach Lewis Clifford’s army were not going to surrender.
The previous night Lightning were just seconds away victory when Bracknell Bees snatched victory. With less than a minute to go Lightning looked set to claim a second home win of the season – only to concede two goals in 19 seconds to lose in a fractious game marred by numerous penalties, culminating in clashes involving Joshua Martin, Tomas Kana and Harry Ferguson.
Lightning’s Czech forward Kana was handed a game misconduct for roughing after landing a punch on the Bees protagonist while team-mate Ferguson received a match penalty for a punch at Martin from the bench. Martin was given a total of 22 minutes for incitement and diving.
Too add to the hosts’ woes they lost stand in captain James Griffin with a leg injury midway through the third period. After a goal-less first period a pair of goals just over a minute apart saw the two sides tied at one apiece at the second interval thanks to strikes by Bees’ Robin Kovar on the powerplay at 29mins 8secs and a short-handed marker by Grinell-Parke at 30mins 19secs.
The game finally exploded into life as Lightning struck twice to open up a 3-1 lead early in the final session as Calum Robertson found a way through and beat goalie Adam Goss for an unassisted strike at 42mins 43secs.
Despite a tripping penalty on Tanaka the home side were able to extend their lead while short-handed as Kana supplied Grinell-Parke for a shot which went over Goss’s arm to make it 3-1 at 45mins 36secs.
Stones brought off one good save from Malinik but could not stop the second effort moments later when he brought Bees to one goal of MK at 52mins 7secs. It set up a tense final seven minutes or so.
Ten seconds after Bees withdrew former Goss, Malinik squared things up at 59mins 35secs. The visitors then sunk Lightning hopes with six seconds on the clock when Aidan Doughty made it 4-3. The goal sparked the altercation which ended with MK’s Ferguson being given a match penalty and Bees’ Martin receiving 22 minutes for incitement and diving.