MK Lightning are in hot form in the NIHL, claiming another four-point weekend in the NIHL. Pic: Tony Sargent
In-form Milton Keynes Lightning registered their second four point weekend in a row with 4-3 victories over both Telford Tigers and Raiders – results which put them within a point of third place in the National Ice Hockey League.
Lightning are now a point adrift of Tigers who have a game in hand so Saturday’s win against the Shropshire outfit was all the more significant, while Sunday’s result means MK are four points clear of Peterborough Phantoms.
An excellent performance by guest netminder Jordan Hedley together with well-organised defensive play steered Lightning to a deserved victory over Telford.
Coventry Blaze player, Hedley, formerly of Lightning and Milton Keynes trained, blocked all but three of 37 Tigers efforts to earn the man of the match award. MK were without James Griffin, Matt Smital, Sam Russell and Lewis Christie, but were able to add Sheffield Scimitars’ Tyler Nixon and Milique Martelly to the squad for what was a tough encounter.
Experienced Leigh Jamieson bagged what proved to be the game winning goal on the powerplay after 52mins 20secs following a tripping call on Nick Oliver before the visitors’ Jonathan Weaver gave Tigers a glimmer of hope at 56mins 6secs with a strike also scored while his team had a man advantage.
Ed Knaggs was in the sin bin at the time for hooking and although Telford who had called a timeout managed to narrow the gap to one goal with Weaver’s effort they could not draw level. That was despite withdrawing goalie Bradley Day in favour of the extra skater in the final few seconds.
In fact, it was Lightning that went closest to scoring with a Bobby Chamberlain ‘goal’ with 24 seconds to go washed out by the officials. Chamberlain earlier got the Lightning show on the road with an even handed equaliser 2mins 7secs after Joe Aston had found a way past Hedley at 14mins 19secs.
With no further goals the first period ended all square at one apiece and indeed it took until 29mins 17secs for Sam Talbot to breach Day’s defence again to put Lightning ahead - Sean Norris gaining his second assist of the night with Streatham two-way player Martelly starting the move.
Telford had hardly had time recover from that goal when Ben Russell set up Russell Cowley to make it 3-1 after 31mins 11secs. Late middle period penalties on Finley Howells, Aston and then Corey Goodison disrupted any chance Tigers had of reducing the deficit.
An unassisted Andy McKinney marker on 48mins 15secs made it 3-2 but that was quickly answered with Jamieson’s powerplay goal, aided by Adam Laishram and Cowley, before Tigers late unsuccessful bid to force overtime.
Two late Talbot goals earned Milton Keynes Lightning maximum points at Raider on Sunday after they came back from 3-2 down to win 4-3.
Lightning slipped behind while short-handed as Nixon was in the sin for hooking. A one timer from Jake Sylvester gave goalie Brandon Stones no chance with 3mins 14secs left of the first period.
MK’s response was quick – less than two minutes later at 17mins 59secs man of the match Liam Stewart struck from Laishram’s set up to equalise. However, it was Raiders who had the last shout of the session when Sam Cooper supplied Aaron Connolly at 18mins 24secs.
Stewart registered a delayed penalty leveller on 35mins 27secs – tipping in a Chamberlain shot from a Laishram pass.
The goal came after Stones took a shot to the head, twice requiring treatment before he was unable to start the third session – back-up Matt Smital taking his place.
A missed powerplay opportunity early in the third session looked to be costly when the hosts capitalised with a man advantage while Callum Field was side-lined for boarding. Within seconds, at 51mins 41secs, Connolly registered for a second time, the puck creeping past Smital to put MK 3-2 behind.
Once more there was swift answer from Lightning when Talbot took Chamberlain’s pass from Norris with 7mins 44secs remaining to put the scores all square once again. Eventually it was a second Talbot strike that settled the points at 57mins 47secs, finishing off a move again also involving Chamberlain and Norris, to ensure another four point weekend for Lewis Clifford’s men.