MK Lightning 9-3 Coventry Blaze (5 Sept)
By Paul Brookman
Coventry Blaze were despatched with ease as Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning rounded off their pre-season programme with a comfortable 9-3 win at Planet Ice on Wednesday.
In a game which was subject to meticulous refereeing – in particular by Stefan Hogarth – it was Lightning who were the main beneficiaries of a series of penalty decisions. Joint referee, Tom Darnell, seemed to prefer to let the game flow.
The visitors incurred a total of 21 penalties – including having both captain Kevin Morris and defenceman Justin Hache dismissed from the game – while Lightning picked up half that number of calls.
Joonas Huovinen opened the scoring for Lightning on 7mins 4sec when he found space on the left to pick his spot past goalie Jordan Hedley. Just over two minutes later Andreas Valdix was credited with getting the final touch to a Georgs Golovkovs set up – the strike timed at 9mins 7secs.
Blaze were then hit with two quick penalties – Kevin Noble going for interference and Kelin Ainsworth for hooking, giving MK a five on three powerplay from which they were unable to score.
It was Lightning’s turn to defend a short-handed spell as Clay Anderson was called for slashing – no goal resulted – before Eric Neiley registered a scrappy goal on 18mins 16secs to make it 3-0 to the hosts at the break.
Adam Goss replaced Patrick Killeen in the MK goal at the start of the second session. Neiley almost added to his tally when a Cole Shudra attempt ran loose while Blaze’s Morris was in the sin bin for a late hit – a new penalty this season – at the start of the second session.
Although the home side couldn’t score on that powerplay they did make it 4-0 on 24mins 41secs on a four on three powerplay when Radek Meidl fired in.
A couple of minutes later Blaze lost the services of Morris following a clash with Neiley. Both received five minutes for fighting while the Coventry forward was also handed a game misconduct.
Alex Nikiforuk prompted a brief mini revival by Blaze with a marker on 37mins 4secs ahead of his team capitalising from roughing call on Neiley at 38mins 40secs – Jake Hansen scoring the powerplay goal 18 seconds later.
The three goal gap was restored 3mins 18secs into the final session as Valdix was provider for Trevor Morbeck to finish off while former MK man Alex Forbes was sitting a cross checking penalty.
It was the first of numerous third period calls on Blaze which left them at least a man short for most of the session and two down at times. The net result was five Lightning goals.
Following a short-handed Dillon Lawrence goal for Blaze at 46mins 4secs Martin Mazanec made it 6-3 with a blue line blast on a five on three powerplay at 49mins 20secs.
Only 24 seconds later – with Blaze still two men short – Tim Wallace shot from the left with Hedley unable to hold the effort as the puck trickled across the line.
The visitors called a time out but it had little effect and they suffered the loss of Hache on a checking from behind penalty in the 54th minute. That gave MK another powerplay from which Valdix was the supplier for Golovkovs to score at 55mins 11secs.
At the same time Blaze’s Lewis was ruled out of the action on a two plus 10 minutes call – again for checking from behind. Once more Lightning made the most of it as Neiley rounded off the scoring with the ninth goal on the powerplay at 57mins 3secs.
It was a satisfactory end to the pre-season games but new MK coach Doug McKay will know that the real test begins with the start of the league programme at Sheffield Steelers on Saturday.
Man of the match: Eric Neiley.