Lightning Take Opening Night Win On The Road (8 Sept)
By Paul Brookman
A pair of first period goals from former Sheffield Steelers Andreas Valdix and Eric Neiley sent Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning on their way to a 3-2 victory at Sheffield’s Fly DSA Arena on Saturday (8 Sept).
Joonas Huovinen added the winning goal in the second session before netminder Patrick Killeen came under intense pressure at times during the third period but remained unbeaten to help seal the opening Elite League fixture points for the visitors against Steelers.
Lightning who were down to three recognised defenceman due to the absence of Martin Mazanec drew the first penalty in the sixth minute when James Griffin was assessed two minutes for hooking. However the travelling outfit saw off the short-handed spell and a further two minute call on Clay Anderson for a high stick in the eighth minute, despite Killeen having to make a great save.
Steelers stopper Jackson Whistle made two fine saves but couldn’t keep the puck out when Radek Meidl fed Valdix for the opening strike on 11mins 8secs.
Two and a half minutes later it was 2-0 to Lightning when Trevor Morbeck was involved in Neiley’s goal set up by another ex-Steeler, Tim Wallace, at 13mins 39secs. It wasn’t long though before Sheffield hit back to narrow the margin as Josh Pitt supplied Aaron Johnson on exactly 14mins to make it 2-1.
Johnson was consigned to the sin bin a couple of minutes later for hooking but nothing came of the powerplay and Lightning held a one goal cushion at the first break.
Whatever was said by Steelers head coach Paul Thompson in the changing room at the interval only served to spark his side to greater heights in the middle stanza with Killeen coming up big early on and then keeping the visitors at bay while Georgs Golovkovs was sitting a tripping call on 23mins 41secs.
Steelers continued to exert extreme pressure after the expiry of the penalty only to find Killeen (right) like a brick wall.
Just before the half way mark Griffin and Sheffield’s Chris Lawrence clashed with both given five minutes in the cooler while the MK man received two plus 10 minutes for a check to the head and his counterpart two plus 10 for being the instigator.
Steelers finally got back on terms on 31mins 15secs as Pitt was again the supplier, this time for Justin Buzzeo to beat Killeen with a shot over his shoulder. And they continued to press even when a man short while Jiri Gula was given a two minute penalty for interference – Trevor Morbeck thwarting a two on one break.
At the second break though it was Lightning who again led by one goal and once more it was third time lucky when Whistle kept out two shots but couldn’t prevent Huovinen from finding the net on 38mins 45secs, assisted by Morbeck and Valdix.
There was still time in the second for one more drive from Steelers – only to find Killeen preventing what looked like a certain goal.
The third period saw both sides with early chances before Ryan Lannon was penalised for delaying the game in the 48th minute – again Killeen the hero stopper before, heading into final few minutes, Lightning were blocked by Whistle.
The Steelers netminder was withdrawn for the extra skater in the final minute but despite a Steelers timeout 43 seconds from the buzzer the hosts could not find a game tying goal to send the encounter into overtime.
Man of the match: Patrick Killeen.