Lightning make a perfect start to National League campaign

MK LightningMK Lightning
MK Lightning | Tony Sargent
A great start to the league season for MK Lightning

Milton Keynes Lightning made a winning start to their National League campaign with a pair of victories over Raiders and Bees in contrasting encounters.

On Saturday, the 3-1 win was not sealed until the final few minutes with two late MK goals while the following day Lightning raced to a 3-0 win before Bees scored twice within the final minute to give the result a slightly unreal feel.

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Against Raiders teenager Milique Martelly stole the show with a man of the match performance - the 17-year-old defenceman drafted in from National League One side Streatham where former MK hero Michael Farn is now player-coach. Martelly stepped onto the ice to fill the void due to Ross Green’s continued injury while fellow defenceman Lewis Christie was also unavailable.

Lightning also welcomed back former netminder Jordan Hedley who is back up goalie at Elite League Coventry Blaze. Hedley who last played for MK in in 2017-2018 their final Elite season was brought in to fill in the gap left by the absence of Brandon Stones.

The game-clinching goal, an empty netter from Bobby Chamberlain didn’t come until five seconds from the buzzer. ‘Disco’ Stewart was given a warm welcome by the 1,500 odd fans in the arena on what was his home debut for the season.

It was not until after the halfway mark that the deadlock was broken after JJ Pitchley was sin binned for tripping Adam Laishram. On the powerplay, revenge was sweet for Laishram, rounding off a fine move at 33mins 59secs.

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Edgars Landsbergs was despatched to the sin bin for interference within the first three minutes of the third period and Raiders made the extra man count with Aaron Connolly registering the leveller at 43mins 57secs.

Raiders failed to score on a late powerplay and it was to prove costly as Sean Norris put Lightning on top at 54mins 58secs, before Raiders coach Sean Easton withdrew his goalie, Ethan James for the final 30 seconds or so to allow the extra skater – giving Chamberlain his opportunity to fire in on the empty net at 59mins 55secs.

Lightning saw off a last gasp Bees rally at Slough Arena on Sunday to complete a successful opening weekend to their National League campaign.

Bees scored twice in the final minute but it was not enough to stop MK notching a 3-2 victory to follow Saturday’s 3-1 win over Raiders. Lewis Clifford’s men raced to a 3-0 lead by the halfway mark and looked to be on course for their first shutout of the season until the hosts’ late strikes.

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Lightning who were still without Green and Christie saw forwards Stewart and Norris taken off the ice with injuries during the middle period. But that was only after both had made significant contributions to the game.

Russell Cowley and Stewart had the assists as Chamberlain stunned the hosts with the opening goal after just 26 seconds before James Griffin – aided by Stewart – supplied Cowley to give Lightning a 2-0 lead at the first break with a goal on 18mins 16secs.

Griffin and Norris then had a hand in Sam Talbot’s goal on 28mins 31secs to extend the lead to 3-0.

Bees lost the services of Christian Mohr with a game misconduct penalty after being handed a five minutes spell in the cooler for boarding after 31mins 49secs – the incident resulting in injured Norris being helped off the ice. Still though MK held a 3-0 advantage going into the final session.

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However, Bees were unable to make any impression on a couple of powerplays and it was only when they were at even strength that MK goalie Brandon Stones was eventually beaten by an Ed Bradley shot with 51 seconds to go to the buzzer. Within seconds Bees made it 3-2 thanks to import Dominik Gabaj but it was not enough to prevent MK from taking the points.

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