Early goals kill off Lightning’s chances of final glory

Sheffield Steeldogs claimed the Play-Off Championship Final

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 9:37 am
<p>MK Lightning</p>

MK Lightning

Three Sheffield Steeldogs goals in the opening quarter of an hour effectively ended Milton Keynes Lightning’s hopes of a glorious end to the season with a 4-1 defeat in the Play-off Championship Final at Coventry Skydome on Sunday.

It followed a sensational fightback by Lightning on Saturday when they came from three goals behind to beat their biggest rivals Peterborough Phantoms 6-5 in the semi-final.

Steeldogs went 2-0 in front in the first four minutes before Lightning cut the arrears to one. When Jason Hewitt added a third Steeldogs goal on 14mins 17secs Lewis Clifford’s men’s task became almost impossible.

As the game went on Sheffield tightened their grip on the play, closing down the channels in the centre and forcing MK to the margins from where even making a decent pass to a scoring position increasingly became impossible. In the end, it resembled trying to find the combination to a lock to open a safe that just wouldn’t open.

MK had the first powerplay when Lee Bonner was sin binned for interference on 1min 6secs. The man advantage ended when Sam Talbot was caught hooking his opponent at 2mins 43secs.

As the sides were reduced to four skaters – ex-Sheffield Steeler (and Lightning) player Andreas Valdix had plenty of space right in front of goal to shoot over goalie Matt Smital’s shoulder at 3mins 2secs.

Talbot’s penalty had not expired when Hewitt blasted high into the roof of the net on 4mins 09secs. MK gave themselves some hope of clawing back the advantage when man of the match Liam Stewart finished off on 6mins 47secs.

Matt Bissonnette was given too much space right in front of goal and he fired high for a 3-1 score after 14mins 17secs.

Talbot’s bid to thwart Hewitt on the attack ended with a two-minute spell in the penalty box, for a high stick at 29mins 6secs. Seconds later, on 29mins 42secs, James Griffin joined him caught roughing his opponent.

Steeldogs took advantage of the five on three powerplay as Bissonnette struck again for a 4-1 lead. From then on, it was a case of battening down the hatches for the eventual champions.

The third period was almost a non-event as far as the fans were concerned. Sheffield seemed content to block up the ice while MK hardly had a decent shot on goal in the opening ten minutes.

It was all different to the previous day after Phantoms, seemed to have the semi-final wrapped up when they scored three goals in less than two first period minutes to go 4-1 in front.

There was a mountain to climb and after coach Lewis Clifford immediately called a timeout Lightning began the ascent with a second goal with 1min 44secs of the opening session remaining when a rocket shot by Talbot defeated goalie Jordan Marr at 18mins 16secs.

Earlier the game was only 51 seconds old when Phantoms’ Nathan Pollard was sin-binned for interference Stewart opening the scoring by blasting the puck over Marr’s shoulder into the net at 1min 18secs.

Phantoms equalised at 4mins 51secs when Lightning’s defence was caught out with a Jasper Foster shot through traffic. Corey McEwen scored at the back post on 14mins 47secs. MK had no time to recover with former MK junior Glenn Billing catching out Smital for Phantoms’ third only ten seconds later.

MK’s backline was penetrated once more at 16mins 30secs through a Petr Stepanek strike to make it 4-1. However, 30 seconds of team talk by Clifford put the team back on the rails and a great move involving Sean Norris - back in the side after injury - ended in Talbot’s goal.

The gap was closed to one goal when Bobby Chamberlain’s drop pass set up Norris to fire in at 25mins 30secs.

As the encounter went into its final half MK started to turn on the gas again - the pressure paying off as Tim Wallace went up the right and his pinpoint shot provided the equaliser on 38mins 10secs.

Just 25 seconds into the third period Laishram taking the puck deep into Phantoms’ d-zone before coming from behind the net to beat Marr and make it 5-4.

After Ed Knaggs was penalised for boarding in the corner at 44mins 1secs Phantoms levelled on the powerplay through Nathan Salem on 45mins 45secs.

There was all to play for once again and it was another powerplay that proved decisive. This time it was Phantoms whose manpower was reduced when Tom Barry was called for slashing at 52mins 35secs.

With the extra skater Wallace to made it 6-5 at 54mins 9secs – enough for victory.