MK Lightning 4-1 Coventry Blaze (18th November)

By PaulBrookman

Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning celebrated their second win in three games with a 4-1 victory over Coventry Blaze at Planet Ice on Sunday to finish the weekend off the bottom of the Elite League.

Recent signing Robbie Baillargeon bagged a brace in what was a cohesive performance with plenty of team spirit – at times one was left with the impression that players would have died for each other if they’d been asked to do so. In particular in the third session so many bodies were thrown in front of the goal as the team sought to protect their 3-1 lead under Blaze pressure that they threatened to get in the way of each other!

And with Georgs Golovkovs seemingly given freedom to roam he impressed with some mazy runs – the only thing missing, on many occasions, being the accuracy of the final pass.

Blaze were caught out as early as 2mins 14secs while Ross Venus was serving time for slashing and Ben Lake was serving time for abuse of an official. Eric Neiley’s pass across the face of goal found Andreas Valdix at the back door to slot home into what was effectively an empty net as goalie Miika Wiikman was caught out of position.

The visitors had one man back on the ice when Lightning struck on the five on four powerplay 90 seconds or so later. This time Baillargeon finished off at 3mins 49secs following a scramble in front of the net – Golovkovs and Radek Meidl also having a hand in the goal.

Coventry hit back on 6mins 43secs when Venus made amends for his earlier misdemeanour by feeding Luke Ferrara to the right of goal – his blast defeating goalie Patrick Killeen.

When Nelson Armstrong was called for hooking just over 30 seconds later Lightning were determined not to allow Blaze back into the game – the opposition’s best chance being a deflected effort by Nicolai Bryhnisveen.

It was a tripping penalty on Bryhnisveen that led to Lightning’s third goal. Clay Anderson had already seen his shot rebound off Wiikman when man of the match Martin Mazanec’s blue line blast rocketed into the net for a powerplay strike at 14mins 22secs.

MK ended the first period as the better of the two outfits so it was to be expected that Blaze would regroup and try to regain some momentum in the middle period. However it was Lightning who had the early opportunities – Rihards Grigors having two shots in quick succession.

Blaze could make no headway after Meidl was penalised for slashing in the 25th minute – in a well defended penalty the visitors’ Kelin Ainsworth was about to unleash a powerful shot when his stick broke.

As the period edged towards its end Jake Hansen had a couple of decent efforts with Mazanec serving time for slashing but Blaze were unable to break through and the score remained 3-1 at the second break.

There was an anxious moment at the start of the final session when Tim Crowder went one on one with Killeen – however the netminder was able to pull off a glove save before, at the other end of the ice, Baillargeon set up Neiley for a shot which could have beaten Wiikman had the finish been better.

Lightning faced a five on three penalty midway through the period after Armstrong was called for slashing and the team was penalised for too many men. Blaze still could not cut the gap though as the home defended their lead with all their might – bodies flying here, there and everywhere.

Any vague hope Blaze had of retrieving the situation was eventually killed off as Neiley broke up the left and fed Baillargeon, in front of the net, to make it 4-1. There was no way back then for Coventry.

Man of the match: Martin Mazanec (Sponsored by Martin & Co)

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