Belfast Giants 5-1 MK Lightning (28th Dec)
By Paul Brookman
League title contenders Belfast Giants consigned Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning to their third defeat in as many days with a 5-1 result at the SSE Arena on Friday.
After losses to Guildford Flames in consecutive days the long trip to Northern Ireland was always going to be a big ask –especially against the in-form Giants. And so it proved to be.
Blair Riley took his goals tally for the season to 22 with a hat-trick – a goal in each period, the last of which was shorthanded, to help Giants go back to the top of the table.
It was former Lightning star Lewis Hook who got the Belfast show on the road when he fired over Adam Goss, given a rare start in goal, on a second rebound after 3mins 56secs. Goss faced 52 shots – conceding just five of them to earn the man of the match award.
MK’s goal remained unaffected when Radek Meidl was sinbinned for hooking a few seconds later but Belfast managed to double their lead when Patrick Dwyer went up the right and passed back to Riley in front of goal on 14mins 24secs.
Again Lightning found themselves a man short soon afterwards – this time Nelson Armstrong going for tripping but the penalty kill units kept Giants at bay before Meidl went close late in the period as his blast went wide of target.
Adam Keefe’s men extended their lead when Tim Wallace’s pass was intercepted and Ivan Šijan was unable to catch Riley on a breakaway to score one on one with Goss after 28mins 30secs. Seconds later Dustin Johner was penalised for hooking without MK being unable to make the most of the powerplay.
Robbie Baillargeon gave up possession behind the Belfast goal when Riley fed Darcy Murphy for goal number four for the home side on 32mins 56secs.
A fifth goal was denied in the closing minutes of the period as Goss made a great block from Curtis Leonard with Johner unsuccessfully waiting in the wings to pick up the loose puck.
Armstrong was sent to the penalty box for the second time with just under three minutes of the third period gone – this time for interference – but again no goal resulted.
There was finally occasion for Lightning to celebrate after 49mins 42secs as Georgs Golvokovs threaded the puck through to Cole Shudra to go clear on the net and shoot through netminder Tyler Beskorowany’s legs.
However Giants were able to add a fifth goal on 54mins 37secs while David Rutherford was in the box for tripping – Riley supplied by Paul Swindlehurst scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal.
Any hope MK had of grabbing a second consolation goal was hampered by a slashing call on Andreas Valdix which ensured they finished the game defending a penalty kill.
Man of the match: Adam Goss.