Milton Keynes Lightning made it four wins from five games after they saw off a Sheffield Steeldogs fightback to hold on for a 4-3 win at iceSheffield on Sunday.
The win ensured that Lightning continued to make up ground on Bracknell Bees who lost twice at the weekend, as well as Steeldogs who fell to MK for the second time in as many games. And with Raiders unable to repeat their shock win over Hull on Saturday it meant that Lightning moved up into eighth spot, two points ahead of the Romford side.
On Saturday Lightning put Steeldogs to the sword in a possibly more comprehensive victory than the 5-2 scoreline suggested at Planet Ice – the hosts dominating long periods of play.
And on Sunday Lightning carried on where they left off when they struck twice within 15 seconds to stun Steeldogs. It was Tanaka who opened the scoring after Tim Smith was sin-binned on 10mins 34secs for slashing. It took all of 19 seconds for Tanaka to fire home at 10mins 53secs.
That put Steeldogs back at full strength but it was only a matter of seconds – 15 in fact – before Russ Cowley scored his second goal of the weekend.
The visitors then saw off a penalty on James Griffin for slashing to keep a 2-0 advantage going into the first break – a lead that was maintained until Griffin was called for tripping on 22mins 50secs. Goalie Jordan Lawday was unable to stop a shot from Alex Graham on 24mins 47secs. It was not long before Steeldogs were on level terms with James Spurr registering after 26mins 48secs.
Spurr soon was hero turned offender as he was sent to the cooler for cross-checking at 30mins 17secs – allowing Harry Ferguson to score his second goal of the season at 31mins 1secs.
Lightning’s powerplay units struck again on 38mins 58secs when Smith was again the culprit, sitting out a holding penalty, and Zimozdra was on a delayed holding penalty, with Liam Stewart scoring.
However, Steeldogs kept themselves in the game through a short-handed top-shelf blast from Vladimir Luka 15 seconds from the second buzzer.
Despite both teams having powerplay opportunities in the third period neither could find the net again with Lightning maintaining their 4-3 lead to the buzzer.
On Saturday it looked as though Stewart was not going to score for the first time in five games - until Steeldogs withdrew Zimozdra with 50 seconds to go after Tanaka was penalised for holding the opponent’s stick. With the score at 4-2 in MK’s favour, ‘Disco’ Stewart won possession in Lightning’s half and left his Sheffield marker in his wake as he sped away to score on the empty net within seven seconds of the penalty being called.
Stewart made his mark on the game as the supplier for both of Robin Kovar’s brace of goals which earned the Czech centre a deserved man of the match award. Indeed MK’s fortunes have taken a marked upturn since Kovar’s recent arrival.
Lightning opened their account on 8mins 18secs after Greg Wood was penalised for hooking. Straight from a face off Tom Carlon fed Tomas Kana who rifled in a rocket blast past Zimozdra.
Stewart sent Kovar away for a one on one with Zimozdra – beating him with a backhand shot to double the lead at 21mins 38secs. MK added a third goal on 33mins 4secs thanks to Russ Cowley.
When Charlie Thompson showed some heavy handedness on young Logan Prince his senior team-mate Carlon waded in to deal with the Steeldogs man – promptly earning himself a match penalty for fighting.
The penalty continued into the third session and it allowed Steeldogs to score through player coach Ben Morgan within 43 seconds of the restart.
The visitors added a second goal on 48mins 51secs when Lawday blocked when Thompson finished off. Lightning replied when Stewart’s long pass from inside the blue line was turned in by Kovar at 52mins 58secs.
Tanaka’s penalty with 50 seconds remaining prompted Steeldogs to withdraw Zimozdra for the extra skater. But it backfired spectacularly within seven seconds as Stewart drew gasps of awe with his pace to seal a 5-2 victory with an empty netter.