Rock legend Rod Stewart was at Planet Ice on Saturday to witness Milton Keynes Lightning’s seemingly inexorable rise up the National Ice Hockey League as they beat Basingstoke Bison 5-3.
Rod who watched the game from the VIP lounge who could not contain his joy at seeing his son Liam score the game-defining fifth goal with just over a minute to go. Arms aloft he joined the celebrations – and relief – of Lightning fans at seeing their team record their sixth win in seven games.
On Sunday Lightning completed a weekend double over Bison in Hampshire with a 3-2 overtime win – the crucial goal to send the game into the extra period being scored by Stewart with 30.6 seconds of regulation time left. It means MK have taken 14 points from a possible 16 over eight games.
It means Lightning are edging ever closer to the middle pack in the National Ice Hockey League – three points behind Sheffield Steeldogs who occupy sixth spot and six adrift of Hull Pirates in fourth. A month ago fourth place would have seemed an impossible target but having taken 14 points out the last 16 it now looks a realistic goal for MK. The weekend wins came despite Lightning playing with a short-bench – Tom Carlon, Sam Russell, Hallden Barnes-Garner and Lewis Christie all absent.
On Saturday Rod who had just completed a three-night run at London’s 02 Arena didn’t have to wait long to see his son open the scoring on the powerplay after Bison’s Adam Harding was penalised for slashing. Set up by Leigh Jamieson he blasted through goalie Alex Mettam’s five-hole to put the home side in front on 7mins 30secs.
Bison then equalised with Michal Klejna the supplier for player-coach Ashley Tait at 12mins exactly.
However, parity only lasted 39 seconds as Robin Kovar found captain Russ Cowley to register from close range for the first of his brace of goals.
Lightning extended the gap to two on 15mins 7secs when a Stewart effort rebounded only for Kovar to snap up the puck and put it beyond Mettam.
That scoreline changed at the start of the second session. Despite being hit with a roughing penalty on Adam Jones within 34secs of the restart it was the visitors who scored – Tait returning the compliment for Klejna to net short-handed at 20mins 58secs.
Less than a minute later Klejna was sent to the cooler for roughing and a need-less 10-minute misconduct – firing the puck in anger after the initial call – giving Lewis Clifford’s men a 75 seconds of five on three powerplay which they were unable to capitalise from.
Bison levelled while with a man advantage thanks to a Jordan Stokes roughing penalty – again it was Tait on the mark at 31mins 11secs.
Once more though there was an almost immediate response from Lightning thanks to a Tomas Kana rebounding shot which Cowley was quick to seize on and put away at 31mins 57secs.
Stewart, on target, and Tanaka, side netting, both had worthwhile efforts going into the final ten minutes ahead of Kovar firing wide before eventually McPherson’s fine cross ice pass was met by Stewart who used his speed to shake off his marker and beat Mettam one on one with 1min 40secs remaining to seal a 5-3 victory.
It was a James Griffin goal 1min 29secs into overtime sealed a 3-2 victory at Basingstoke on Sunday. Lightning had been 31 seconds from defeat when Stewart scored the equalising goal after goalie Jordan Lawday was pulled for the extra skater.
Bison opened the scoring on the powerplay at 22mins 54secs thanks to Sean Norris, aided by Ashley Tait and Michal Klejna.
Lightning levelled after 29mins 47secs when Jordan Stokes made amends for an earlier delay of the game penalty with a great blue line blast to beat Mettam – the assists going to Tomas Kana and Cale Tanaka.
Adam Harding put Bison back in front on 33mins 24secs before Tanaka had the puck in the net only to have the ‘goal’ washed out for goalie interference.
As the third period progressed it was Lightning who were asking all the questions and looking more likely to score, although there was a brief interlude when Griffin went toe to toe with Liam Morris, winning the battle but earning four minutes in the cooler for fighting. His opponent received the same punishment.
In the final minute, Lawday was replaced by the extra skater and that was the trigger for Stewart to grab the equaliser with 30.6 seconds left on the clock.
The travelling fans’ joy was completed when Griffin breached the Bison goal just 1min 29secs into the extra period to make it 3-2 to MK.