Lightning finish the year on a high with win over league leaders
Wildcats win moves Lightning within touching distance of top spot
Milton Keynes Lightning moved within two points of National Ice Hockey League leaders Swindon Wildcats following a convincing 9-4 win over the Wiltshire side at the Link Centre on Thursday.
Lightning never looked in danger of losing after Sean Norris struck twice within the first eight minutes or so against a Wildcats side missing players through injury and Covid-19 protocol. However, MK also had absentees, they drafted in former player, defenceman Michael Farn, now player coach at Streatham Redhawks, to help fill the gaps.
Norris went one on one with netminder Dean Skinns to score after 1min 32secs and he doubled his tally, while MK were short handed, with a shot through Skinns’ legs at 8mins 6secs. Swindon cut the deficit on 17mins 21secs through Emil Svec
The visitors edged two goals in front again on 24mins 8secs thanks to a fabulous powerplay shot from Liam Stewart. Wildcats hit back with their second of the night through Loris Taylor, at 26mins 4secs.
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The response from Lightning was immediate – Leigh Jamieson broke one on one to beat Skinns just 21 seconds later to make it 4-2. There was an almost identical reply to Wildcats’ third goal from Chris Jones on 30mins 25secs. Norris quickly restored the two goal gap for his hat-trick at 31mins 49secs.
Just 1min 24secs from the second buzzer Sam Talbot made it 6-3 but Lightning were not finished. The third session saw them maintaining momentum and after seeing off a five minute penalty on Edgars Landsbergs for boarding, Norris went up to left to score at 50mins 32secs.
Talbot extended the lead to 8-3 on 54mins 7secs before Nell gained a fourth at 56mins 33secs.
A late penalty on Neil Liddiard gave MK another powerplay. They looked unconcerned about adding to the score until Ross Green’s blast from distance ended up in the back of the net with 59 seconds remaining to complete a great trip with a 9-4 final score.
The win followed a mixed double header with Peterborough Phantoms over Christmas. Lightning won 5-3 in the home game on Monday but lost the return the next day in Cambridgeshire 7-2.
In the first encounter it took until 30mins 38secs for the first goal when Stewart blasted the puck towards goal for Bobby Chamberlain to redirect beyond goalie Jordan Marr. Phantoms then coughed up the puck in the neutral zone for Norris to beat Marr one on one with 1min 11secs of the period remaining.
Just 59 seconds of the third session had elapsed when Stewart seized on a loose puck in Phantoms’ defensive zone and made it 3-0. Chamberlain was quickest to the puck to finish off at 43mins 56secs and the 4-0 lead looked unassailable going into the final quarter of an hour.
Goalie Matt Smital was left unguarded by his defencemen as opposition man of the match Ross Clarke fired in on 46mins35secs before Norris defeated Marr to make it 5-1 at 48mins 15secs.
Against the run of play Phantoms further reduced the deficit through Tom Barry on 55mins 3secs before Duncan Speirs scored in the final 25 seconds to give a 5-3 scoreline which flattered the visitors.
Two goals in the opening seven minutes sent Peterborough on their way to a 7-2 win at Bretton on Tuesday.
Lightning were unable to find a way past Marr until the 26th minute, by that time they were already three goals behind after Callum Buglass scored on 5mins 59secs. The same player doubled his and Phantoms’ tally on the powerplay at 7mins 9secs.
When Jamieson was penalised for holding in the 14th minute Conor Pollard finished off for Phantoms’ third goal at 15mins 30secs.
Lightning finally got on the scoreboard on 26mins 15secs when Stewart registered but it was not long though before the home outfit re-established their three goal lead, thanks to Speirs. The same player was on the mark a fraction under five minutes later at 35mins 37secs to make it 5-1.
The third period was more of the same for Lightning as Phantoms stretched their lead to six goals with a couple of powerplay goals. The first came on 54mins 7secs while Stewart was in the sin bin for cross checking and misconduct – Morgan Pizzo finishing off.
Further misery came just over a minute later after Norris had joined Stewart in the penalty box for boarding – this time Conor Pollard was the man on the mark at 55mins 37secs.
When Norris capitalised on a powerplay resulting from the sin binning of Ross Clarke for roughing it was no more than a late consolation for the travellers.