Milton Keynes Lightning are almost assured a place in the in the final four play-offs at Coventry after league champions Telford Tigers were beaten 5-2 at Planet Ice on Saturday and the city side picked up a point from a penalty shootout loss at Bees the next day.
A win against Bees in Lightning’s final home play-off group game on Friday would see them progress to the semi finals over the weekend of April 30 and May 1.
However Sunday’s result was marred by an injury that required popular forward Sean Norris to be stretchered off the ice at Bees’ Slough rink. Norris was stretchered off the ice after taking a big hit in the dying seconds of overtime while the sides were tied at one apiece.
With concerns about the well-being of the popular forward, it was perhaps not surprising that minds may not have been totally focussed on the shootout.
Despite that goalie Matt Smital went on to save all but one of the five penalty shots – Dominik Gabaj the only successful marksman for Bees in a 2-1 win. Lightning’s only goal came on 32mins 18secs through Mikey Power, supplied by Tim Wallace.
The home side equalised to force overtime with 4mins 2secs of regulation time left – Will Stead the scorer. Norris’ injury came as Bees thought they had won the game in the extra period when James Galazzi fired in with 41 seconds remaining, only to have the effort ruled out for a high stick.
The previous evening Telford were outplayed in all three periods as Lightning outshot their opponents 50-26. The Sean Norris, Sam Talbot and Bobby Chamberlain line cause real problems for the Tigers backline with numerous chances before goalie Brad Day’s goal cracked open as the trio found a way through, Norris feeding Chamberlain who was left in space to pick his spot for the opening goal on 11mins 34secs.
The visitors equalised on 26mins 48seconds after winning a face off in the neutral zone – Jack Hopkins supplying Jason Silverthorn to beat netminder Smital.
Lightning were back in front on 34mins 8secs, thanks to a five on three powerplay – Norris firing through a narrow gap to score. Hallden Barnes-Garner tipped in a long range Tim Wallace pass to take the tally to 3-1 on 39mins 31secs before Tigers’ quickly responded as a Finley Howells blast against the backboards rebounded with the puck appearing to go in off the back of Smital 12 seconds before the intermission to make it 3-2.
It didn’t take long for MK to restore the two goal gap as the third session got underway –Wallace feeding Barnes-Garner to score at 41mins 53secs.
Telford’s indiscipline in the final minutes cost them any chance of a late fightback and it resulted in MK’s fifth strike, on the powerplay, with Adam Laishram firing an upstairs shot into the roof of the net at 58mins 54secs.
At Slough the next day there were few chances for either side in an even first period that saw Bees keeping out 11 shots while man of the match Smital turned away ten attempts.
The hosts saw off a two-minute tripping penalty on Will Stead in the first five minutes of the second session before having a powerplay of their own as Lewis Christie was called for holding. Again, the outcome was no goal.
Christie was back in the penalty box soon after Power’s opener but Bees were denied and the teams returned to the dressing rooms with MK leading 1-0.
Joe Baird spurned the chance of a ‘dance’ with Bobby Chamberlain and that earned the MK player a four-minute penalty for elbows and roughing. While Lightning saw off the short-handed spell, they eventually conceded with Will Stead’s leveller to send the game into a goalless overtime before the penalty shots decided the encounter.