Hull Pirates dealt Milton Keynes Lightning a sharp lesson in what it will take to compete at the top end of the National Ice Hockey League this season when they handed out a comprehensive 7-2 defeat at Planet Ice on Saturday.
Pirates, last year’s NIHL play-off champions, stunned the home side by taking the lead on 3mins 55secs through former Lightning star Bobby Chamberlain and from then on never really looked back in this challenge match. In fact it was Chamberlain who came back to haunt his old team, picking up a second goal and three assists.
However there was an improved result in the return game in Hull on Sunday when, thanks largely to a sterling performance from goalie Brandon Stones, Pirates were restricted to a 3-2 win.
There was plenty for Lightning coach Lewis Clifford to learn from on Saturday as Hull’s passing proved superior whereas too many promising moves by MK ended with the final move going astray – perhaps not so surprising for a squad which had only a couple of weeks’ training under their belts.
Just over a minute after Chamberlain’s opener Rio Grinell-Parke broke away but his finish was not good enough to beat Pirates’ man of the match netminder, Ashley Smith. Another opportunity came Lightning’s way in the 12th minute when Harry Ferguson found himself in space but would have done better to close in on goal than shoot from distance.
Things got no better in the second period although MK had the puck in the net seconds after the restart, only for the ‘goal’ to be disallowed as the net was off its moorings.
Matty Davies shot over goalie Jordan Lawday’s glove hand to make it 2-0 to the visitors on 21mins 26secs and less than two minutes later the netminder failed to stop Kevin Phillips’ shot from distance on 23mins 58secs.
Lightning’s Leigh Jamieson was ejected from the game on a match penalty for checking from behind in the 26th minute, ahead of a bench penalty on the home side for abuse of an official – strangely not directed at any one player by referee Richard Belfitt who appeared to be losing control of proceedings.
Pirates struck again only 38 seconds into the third period – Chamberlain setting up Olegs Sislannikovs who fired in from the right hand side of goal.
Just over two minutes later at 42mins 46secs Lee Haywood hit goal number five before Jonathan Kirk was penalised for interference on 43mins 41secs – within nine seconds James Griffin made the pass for Ari Nähri to beat Smith.
But the joy was short-lived with Pirates raiding the Lightning goal for a sixth marker through Chamberlain at 44mins 7secs.
By the time Grant McPherson had deflected a Russ Cowley blue line rocket into the net for MK’s second goal on the powerplay at 53mins 34secs the visitors had already bagged a seventh strike thanks to their player coach Jason Hewitt on 52mins 8secs.
Lightning may have come away from Hull Arena on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline with Stones deservedly picking up the man of the match award after turning away all but a trio of 64 shots on goal.
The hosts were held at bay for more than half the game despite outshooting Lightning 20-5 in the first session – the home outfit eventually breaking through on 32mins 54secs when player coach Hewitt finally defeated Stones.
But before the second break Lightning were able to level thanks to some determined work from scorer Brodie Jesson, aided by Grinell-Parke at 36mins 39secs.
Once more Lightning were outshot in the second period to the tune of 21-10 but more importantly they were all square. That quickly changed at the start of the third period when Chamberlain scored within 42 seconds of the restart.
Cale Tanaka was in the penalty box after being called for cross checking on 44mins 27secs but that did not stop MK from registering short-handed with an unassisted Nähri goal at 45mins 31secs.
Lightning were unable to capitalise on a powerplay and it proved costly shortly after as Kevin Phillips grabbed the winner on 52mins 19secs.
By quirk of the fixtures calendar Lightning’s first league opponents at Planet Ice on Saturday, face-off 7pm, are Hull while they travel to Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday – the other team MK faced in pre-season challenge matches.