Raiders bring Lightning crashing back down to earth

MK Lightning vs Romford. Pic: Tony Sargent
MK Lightning vs Romford. Pic: Tony Sargent

Milton Keynes Lightning were brought down to earth with a crash by Raiders after the highs of the previous weekend as they went down 6-2 at Planet Ice on Saturday.

Lightning welcomed defenceman James Griffin back to the side after injury and, together with the mid-week announcement that both Tom Carlon and Lewis Christie had agreed to stay for the remainder of the season, the team was able to ice a strong line-up. But it was not to result in victory over a team MK should have beaten.

MK Lightning vs Romford. Pic: Tony Sargent

MK Lightning vs Romford. Pic: Tony Sargent

The following night at Telford Tigers there was an identical result – and again Lightning were on the wrong end of the 6-2 scoreline.

On Saturday Lightning’s cause was not helped by falling into penalty trouble with two key players off the ice for a total of 24 minutes – Liam Stewart and Tomas Kana both serving 12 minutes for boarding.

Lightning are the most penalised team in the league with 453 penalty minutes – Kana leading the individual count with 73 minutes with Harry Ferguson third on 63 mins and Cale Tanaka fourth with 58. Only Raiders’ Jack Flynn breaks up the trio in second spot. In the team stakes Raiders are a distant second with 383 minutes.

During Stewart’s penalty Raiders scored two goals at a time when MK could have had a chance of turning the game around, having gone a goal behind when Lukas Sladkovsky was given far too much space to pick his spot at 14mins 59secs.

MK Lightning vs Romford. Pic: Tony Sargent

MK Lightning vs Romford. Pic: Tony Sargent

Kana’s penalty at exactly 35 minutes had an instant result – for all the wrong reasons with Raiders’ top scorer Jake Sylvester bagging his second on the powerplay at 36mins 42secs to make it 5-0.

By the time Kana was truly back into the action the Essex based visitors had sealed the result with a sixth goal – Blahoslav Novak getting in on the scoring act with a powerplay strike at 47mins 26secs.

So what went wrong after the promise of the previous week? Raiders were so obviously nervous of being on the wrong end of a big score that they planted three players across the backline from the start. That made it hard for MK to break through and when they did the shots were not good enough to beat goalie Michael Gray.

The visitors made it on 24mins 41secs when Erik Piatak was afforded too much space to fire home. Moments before Stewart’s penalty expired Raiders added a third – Piatak again not closed down on 27mins 12secs.

Stewart’s return did not stop Raiders’ flow as Sylvester made it 4-0 at 30mins 11secs before taking advantage of the 12-minute penalty on Kana.

Raiders were given a powerplay when Novak scored after Leigh Jamieson was sin-binned for hooking.

The home side ensured they were not going to be shut out when Stewart redirected a Kana pass beyond Gray on the powerplay at 50mins 23secs – Aaron Connolly serving time for slashing.

There were less than two minutes to the buzzer when MK man of the match Ari Nähri, almost on his knees, still managed to blast Sam Russell’s pass high into the goal at 58mins 5secs.

The bad weekend continued at Telford the next day when MK were given an early powerplay as Tigers’ Finley Howells was called for cross-checking moments after Brandon Whistle had put the hosts ahead at 3mins 13secs. Lightning couldn’t capitalise though and it took until 39 seconds into the second session for them to level through a Griffin assisted goal by Kana.

Parity did not last long as Jack Watkins – with MK during the 2015-2016 season – put Telford back in front after 22mins 10secs. Watkins extended the advantage on the powerplay on 27mins 44secs – just 19 seconds into a penalty on Rio Grinell-Parke for tripping.

A fourth goal for the home side followed at 35mins 12secs when Dan Rose was the scorer before a brief moment of celebration by Lightning as Liam Stewart, aided by Tanaka, found the net on 36mins 59secs.

But Tigers were not finished and they effectively snuffed out any hope MK had of an unexpected third period come back when veteran Jason Silverthorn registered within 1min 55secs of the start of the session.

Kana was serving a tripping penalty when Tigers rounded off their tally through Silverthorn at 50mins 37secs.