MK Lightning 2-6 Coventry Blaze (5th Jan)
By Paul Brookman
Coventry Blaze dealt Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s play off hopes a blow with a convincing 6-2 victory at Planet Ice on Saturday.
Lightning often looked off the pace as their Midlands rivals took a 2-0 lead by the first break and won each of the two remaining periods by the odd goal in three. Blaze started the game just outside the top eight places required for a play off spot while bottom side Lightning would have been targeting the game for the vital points they require.
Coventry struck early with what was a scrappy goal with Shawn Pauly putting the puck over the shoulder of goalie Patrick Killeen after 3mins 21secs – there was a suspicion that the final touch came off a Lightning player.
Man of the match Georgs Golovkovs – by far the liveliest of the home forwards – immediately tested Blaze netminder, Miroslav Kopriva, but his shot was pushed away. When Blaze’s Alex Nikiforuk was sin binned for slashing shortly afterwards there was a big scramble in front of the visitors’ net but no goal resulted.
It was Lightning’s failure to capitalise on the powerplay that contributed to their inability to take a grip on the game – they had three further one man advantages in the first session, the last of which continued into the second period.
In contrast Coventry were able to make a hooking call on Ryan Lannon count when Tim Crowder set up Nikiforuk for the first of his two goals on 17mins 18secs.
On the powerplay at the start of the second period Ivan Šijan blasted in from the blue line but as the puck ran loose Robbie Baillargeon was unable to put the final touch.
It was to cost MK a few minutes later as Luke Ferrara supplied Dillon Lawrence for a shot from the left which sailed past Killeen who seemed strangely slow to react on 24mins 5secs.
A minute or so later Pauly almost had the puck in the net again before Killeen just about managed to stop it crossing the goal line.
There was at last reason for home fans to cheer as Michael Fine, behind the goal line, made a perfect pass to Golovkovs for a first time shot from the right which rocketed into the Blaze goal after 27mins 8secs.
However the celebrations were soon cut short thanks to Ferrara who went one on one with Killeen before firing in a shot which the goalie would have normally been expected to save – making it 4-1 to Blaze after 28mins 3secs.
Things became even more difficult for the hosts 18 seconds later as Coventry were awarded a penalty shot – converted by Ben Lake.
A hooking penalty handed out to Nikiforuk within the first 90 seconds of the third session saw MK with another powerplay but the closest they came to scoring was with a Tim Wallace effort from inside the blue line which hit the post and then the crossbar.
When Ross Venus found Nikiforuk to the left of the MK goal on 48mins 18secs he was faced with what was effectively an open goal – Killeen already committed to the right of the net and he extended the Blaze lead to five goals.
A couple of minutes later Baillargeon’s protests after he was assessed two minutes each for roughing and interference saw him thrown out for abuse of referee, Dean Smith.
Despite the blow to Lightning just moments later Golovkovs broke away to bag his second goal with a fantastic shot past Kopriva to make it 6-2 after 50mins 33secs.
In the dying minutes it was Golovkovs who twice went close but in truth had he registered it would have given the scoreline an unreal look – Blaze were worthy winners.
Man of the match: Georgs Golovkovs (sponsored by Cineworld Milton Keynes)