Milton Keynes Lightning are on their way to the National Ice Hockey League championship play-off finals weekend after securing their place with a 5-3 victory over Bees at Planet Ice on Friday.
Lightning finished second in their play-off group after losing a fairly meaningless last game at Telford Tigers 6-4 on Sunday. It means that Lewis Clifford’s men will face winners of Group B, Peterborough Phantoms, in the second of the semi-finals at the Skydome on Saturday – Tigers play Sheffield Steeldogs in the other encounter for a place in Sunday’s final.
Bees were stung by two late goals as Lightning sealed their place at ‘The Dance’. With home fans chanting ‘Win it for Norris’ from the 86 seconds point – a reference to injured Sean’s shirt number and the injury he suffered in the first game against Bees the previous Sunday – MK were dealt an early blow when Dominik Gabaj fired in at the back post on 5mins 7secs.
The goal was against the run of play and it didn’t take too long for the home side to level through James Griffin shooting from distance past goalie Adam Goss at 10mins 5secs.
There were early attempts in the middle period for MK from Bobby Chamberlain, Mikey Power and Hallden Barnes-Garner but none beat Goss until Mikey Power blasted in from the left on 27mins 35secs.
Coach Clifford was forced to adjust the lines when Morgan Pizzo was ejected on a match penalty for high sticks, Leigh Jamieson moving from defence to the forward line. Pizzo’s penalty expired, Gabaj was caught pushing Lewis Christie down on the ice and that put the home outfit on a five on three powerplay – duly punishing Bees with Tim Wallace beating Goss from inside the blue line at 3mins 39secs for a 3-1 lead.
Despite that, Bees reduced the deficit when Alan Lack got the final touch with 1min 5secs remaining in the middle session to set up a tense start to the third period.
A tripping penalty on man of the match Liam Stewart put Bees at a man advantage early in the final period and they capitalised with a Josh Smith marker at 43mins 42secs.
Lightning had another five on three powerplay to make it 4-3 as Stewart finished off at 49mins 24secs.
Wallace who wrapped up the 5-3 result with an empty net goal at 59mins 32secs to send Bees out of the competition and the home fans delighted.
Telford just edged out Milton Keynes Lightning 6-4 in the final play off group game in Shropshire on Sunday. With the place in the final four in the bag, Clifford took the opportunity to give some extra ice time to players who had not featured heavily in the line-up in recent times. Brandon Stones was given the netminder’s duties while Callum Field and Edgars Landsbergs played on the third line.
The skating duo did not waste the opportunity to make an impression with Landsbergs assisting on man of the match Field’s goal that opened the scoring after 7mins 41secs.
Scott McKenzie, supplied by Price and Nick Oliver levelled for the hosts on 17mins 3secs before a 19th minute bench penalty for too many men proved decisive for Lightning as Tigers scored within six seconds on the powerplay at 19mins 32secs. Again the man on the mark was McKenzie.
Lightning equalised on 33mins 14secs with Tim Wallace making the supply for Power to fire home.
For the second time in the game MK went in front on 38mins 32secs when Barnes-Garner registered. The lead was brief with Telford replying at 39mins 42secs through Vladimir Luka.
Finley Howells put the home team back in front within 2mins 19secs of the start of the third session and, after seeing off a holding the opponent stick call on McKenzie, Dan Rose stretched the gap to 5-3. Lightning were not finished yet though as Wallace beat goalie Brad Day at 49mins 27secs.
Unfortunately, MK conceded for a sixth time less than 45 seconds later Austin Mitchell King beating Stones at 50mins 9secs for a 6-4 final score.