Raiders bring Lightning back to earth after thrilling win over Steeldogs

MK LightningMK Lightning
MK Lightning | Tony Sargent
Thrilling shoot-out on Saturday, defeat on Sunday

Milton Keynes Lightning survived a late surge by Sheffield Steeldogs to take the points with a 6-5 win in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at Planet Ice on Saturday.

Steeldogs came from 5-2 behind with less than nine minutes remaining to level at 58mins 35secs and force the game into five minutes of overtime that failed to separate the two sides. Both teams are vying for a top three finish in the league, ahead of the end of season play-offs.

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But there was no such luck for Lightning the following night when they succumbed to Raiders in overtime on the road to record a 3-2 loss.

Against Steeldogs the hosts led 1-0 at the first break thanks to a Sam Talbot strike after 9mins 44secs. However, they were unable to capitalise on any of the three penalties on Sheffield players – it could have proved more costly than it did in the end.

When Callum Field was called for elbows with less than three minutes of the middle period gone Steeldogs had their first powerplay. Instead man of the match Adam Laishram was able to break and go solo to beat Steeldogs’ goalie Miles Finney at 23mins 6secs for a shorthanded marker.

Former Sheffield Steeler – and Lightning man – Andreas Valdix hit back to narrow the gap on 28mins 22secs before Talbot restored the two goal advantage at 30mins 01sec.

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Lightning’s joy was short-lived with Alex Graham finding a way past goalie Matt Smital to make it 3-2 after 32mins 49secs. However, after the home outfit saw off a high stick penalty on Tim Wallace at 33mins 29secs, they restored their two-goal lead through captain Russell Cowley at 37mins 34secs.

Liam Stewart’s goal made it 5-2 after 50mins 39secs on a delayed penalty. At that stage it looked as though MK had the encounter wrapped up – but they had not accounted for a late rally by Steeldogs that saw them draw to within a goal with 4mins 13secs remaining of regulation time.

Lee Bonner defeated Smital at 51mins 2secs and after Graham hit his second goal at 55mins 47secs to make it 5-4 the momentum swung towards Steeldogs.

The visitors called a timeout with 1min 44secs of normal time left, immediately withdrawing Finney in favour of the extra skater. This time the high-risk strategy paid off as Graham completed his hat trick to equalise within seconds at 58mins 35secs.

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Overtime failed to provide a winner and after both sides’ first two penalty shootout takers failed to convert Hewitt bagged one for Sheffield directly ahead of Talbot scoring for the hosts. The next three attempts – two for Steeldogs and one for Lightning failed to produce a goal so it was down to Griffin to score the game-winning goal. He duly did to send the home fans home happiest.

At Romford on Sunday, Lightning’s inability to capitalise on three third period powerplays ultimately cost them dearly when they went down 3-2 in overtime to bottom of the table Raiders.

Jake Sylvester sealed the game for Raiders to score with 1min 25secs of overtime remaining. Lightning had forced the extra period with a powerplay leveller on 54mins 2secs through a goal by Tim Wallace.

However, they were unable to find the net on three other occasions when they had the extra man as Raiders conceded a trio of penalties in less than ten minutes and ended regulation time with Ollie Baldock in the sin bin, serving two minutes for slashing.

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Again missing key players, Lightning gave a start in the net to Brandon Stones and there was a bright start as they took the lead after 4mins 36secs when Talbot beat goalie Michael Gray.

The second period was a mere 4mins 11secs old when Ben Russell and Brandon Ayliffe dropped the gloves for a bout of fisticuffs – landing them both in their respective penalty boxes for five minutes for fighting.

JJ Pitchley joined his compatriot in the box after 26mins 46secs on a roughing call. However MK could not take advantage of the powerplay and Raiders scored with Sylvester’s first goal at 29mins 54secs. The hosts edged in front with an unassisted Jacob Ranson strike at 37mins 29secs.

Final period penalties on Baldock (hooking) and Sean Barry (interference) came and went before Rio Grinell-Parke was sin binned for tripping at 53mins 32secs. Thirty seconds into the powerplay, Wallace was able to beat Gray for the equaliser to send the game into overtime, settled by Sylvester’s winner for Raiders – Lightning having to be content with a single point.

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