MK Lightning 0-1 Guildford Flames (26th Dec)
By Paul Brookman
Calle Ackered’s strike for Guildford Flames with just over eight minutes remaining ensured there were no Boxing Day celebrations for Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning at Planet Ice.
Ackered, the third top scoring Elite League defenceman, fired through the narrowest of angles to beat goalie Patrick Killeen with the only goal of the game. It was the lowest ever score between the two sides – English Premier League and Elite clashes included.
The teams who both joined the top flight of British hockey at the same time have enjoyed some close scorelines in the past and this one looked as though it might go the distance all the way to overtime and a penalty shootout.
The first period saw a rarity in hockey with no goals and not a single penalty called during an almost uninterrupted encounter with fast end to end play that produced plenty of chances but none that really troubled either netminder – often both Lightning and Flames resorted to firing in from the blue line.
Flames defenceman Jesse Craige tested Killeen from distance within seconds of the face off and it was the MK stopper who was called into action with two blocks from Evan Janssen and John Dunbar after five and six minutes.
Nelson Armstrong tried to catch out goalie Chris Carrozzi from the blue line in the eighth minute while Robbie Baillargeon fired past the post with the stopper committed a little while after.
Back at the other end T J Foster had no luck in beating Killeen before Janssen had another go with similar results. Georgs Golovkovs appeared to deliberately delay his shot in a bid to commit Carrozzi but the Flames man was having none of it.
James Griffin incurred the first penalty for a late hit two minutes into the second session but the visitors were unable to find any powerplay rhythm due to Lightning’s excellent penalty kill units – indeed it was Michael Fine who went closest to registering while a man short.
When Armstrong had another attempt the answer was the same as the netminder shut the door. Former Lightning captain, Kevin King, now in Flames’ colours, then had no joy in defeating Killeen.
When Jez Lundin blasted in from the blue line there was a scramble in front of the MK goal before Killeen dived on the puck to snuff out the danger.
As the second period continued in much the same style as the first it started to look like Lightning and Flames could have played until midnight before the deadlock was broken.
Killeen was not going to be troubled by Craige’s next effort from long range and the goalie deflected Ackered’s shot away with ease before Radek Meidl saw Baillargeon in a promising position, only for his pass to be blocked.
Guildford spent much of the final two minutes of the session shorthanded after Corbin Baldwin was called for hooking but there were no shots of note from MK.
And when Baldwin was sinbinned again, this time for holding the opponent’s stick three minutes into the final period, a Meidl attempt right at the end of the powerplay was the only significant shot for the hosts.
The deadlock wasn’t broken either after Ryan Lannon was caught for interference three minutes later – Craige shooting wide of target.
There was danger for the home side after Ivan Šijan lost the puck and Brett Ferguson was in the clear for a shot on Killeen but again it was no go for Flames.
Eventually after one Ackered attempt was thwarted the Swede finally beat Killeen on 51mins 47secs with a rocket from the right hand side.
It threatened to knock the stuffing out of Lightning but to their credit they didn’t give up. Even when Baillargeon was penalised for slashing in the 55th minute – Golovkovs’ shorthanded shot ending up over the bar.
Lightning called a timeout with 1min 38secs remaining andimmediately withdrew Killeen for the extra skater but the six on five situation failed to result in a last gasp equaliser as Flames won by the only goal.
Man of the match: Andreas Valdix (sponsored by Morrison’s at MK Leisure Plaza)