Manchester Storm 4-3 MK Lightning (9th Nov)
By Paul Brookman
A brace from Robbie Baillargeon and a goal by Eric Neiley were not enough to prevent Manchester Storm from extending Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s losing streak at Altrincham on Friday.
Storm who had suffered a poor run of form in recent weeks edged the game 4-3, seeing off a late rally by Lightning which saw recent signing Baillargeon bag his second goal with less than five minutes remaining. The result stretched MK’s winless streak to six – their longest fruitless run of the season so far.
There was a feisty start to the encounter when Shane Bakker and James Griffin’s went toe to toe with less than three minutes gone – both receiving a total of seven minutes in their respective coolers for fighting with the Lightning man also handed a ten minutes misconduct penalty.
Lightning began at a blistering pace as Georgs Golovkovs, back in action after a seven game absence, shot wide before Andreas Valdix’s effort was deflected wide by Antoine Poulin. Baillargeon then forced a good save from goalie Matt Ginn.
However it was Storm who took the lead on 9mins 35secs when Ciaran Long supplied Evan Richardson from behind the net to catch out goalie Patrick Killeen.
As the period drew to a close Radek Meidl saw his attempt go high and wide ahead of blasts from Rihards Grigors and Neiley being dealt with by the Storm back-guard.
Lightning suffered an early blow in the second session as, straight from the face off to the left of Killeen’s goal, the puck was pushed back to Dallas Ehrhardt by Long and his blue line rocket eluded the netminder for Storm’s second just 31 seconds in.
It wasn’t long though before Baillargeon reduced the arrears as he got the final touch to a Michael Fine set up at 23mins 22secs – the other assist going to Martin Mazanec.
Soon after Luke Moffatt tried to restore Storm’s advantage with a pass from which Mike Hammond forced a great stop by Killeen, ahead of heroics by Grigors in blocking a Long effort.
Baillargeon then tried to set up Neiley but the move didn’t come off and the same two players were involved soon after in another unsuccessful raid on the Storm net.
The home outfit took the score to 3-1 in their favour on 35mins 3secs when Long was the provider for defenceman Harrison Ruop to give Killeen little chance with a shot through traffic.
There was a further altercation at the second period buzzer – this time it was Storm’s Linden Springer who was the instigator when he and Nelson Armstrong tussled. For his efforts Springer was handed a game misconduct to go with the seven minutes for fighting while his opponent received five minutes for fighting.
With a powerplay to start the third period Lightning did not take long to make the most of the man advantage. Fine in space out on the left found Neiley tip the puck in from close range just 46 seconds after the restart.
It was game on, or so it seemed – only for Storm to regain the two goal lead when Brendan Brooks made the supply to Long who shot high into the goal to make it 4-2 at 45mins 43secs.
Storm could make nothing of two further powerplays – first Cole Shudra going for slashing a couple of minutes later before Griffin was called for delaying the game with less than eight minutes remaining, while MK were unable to convert when Dane Byers was caught tripping.
There was a tense ending to the clash though after Baillargeon, at the far post, turned in an Owen Griffiths set up on 55mins 19secs to bring Lightning to within one goal of their opponents.
However, despite a timeout and the withdrawal of Killeen for the extra skater in the final 40 seconds the visitors were unable to find the game tying goal to send the match into overtime.
Man of the match: Michael Fine (Sponsored by AAMS Acute Ambulance & Medical Services)