REPORT: MK Lightning 1-4 Sheffield Steelers (19th Jan)
Sheffield Steelers drove another knife into Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s lingering ambitions of putting together a late run for a play-off place when they inflicted a 4-1 defeat at Planet Ice on Saturday.
Yet it took until the final few minutes for Steelers to stamp their authority on a game in which they were the better sidefrom the start with Lightning desperately short of bodies as they were missing the injured Martin Mazanec, Trevor Morbeck and David Norris all sidelined.
Steelers, uncharacteristically only one spot above their bottom placed hosts, outshot MK 15-6 in the first period – yet for all that they could not find the net with goalie Patrick Killeen once again performing heroics to blunt the Sheffield challenge.
There was just one penalty called in the opening 20 minutes – Lightning given the man advantage when Anthony DeLuca was called for slashing in 12th minute. But it looked as though MK were defending a powerplay rather than going on the offensive as they were pinned back in their own zone until the final few seconds when Robbie Baillargeon was finally able to put a shot on Jackson Whistle in the opposition goal.
By that stage Steelers were already commanding the play –Killeen under pressure in the first minute before he turned away an Aaron Johnson effort a couple of minutes later. Georgs Golovkovs’ blue line blast went past the post, ahead of Jordan Owens forcing the MK stopper into another save.
Following the penalty on DeLuca an attempt by Baillargeon was fumbled by Whistle – but there was no one there to follow up.
Sheffield sought to press their advantage with John Armstrong, Josh Pitt, Johnson and Owens all testing Killeen before the break – an aborted Andreas Valdix-led attack being the best MK could manage in the final minute.
It much the same as played resumed after the interval – Robert Dowd denied by Killeen in the opening minute before Michael Fine saw Whistle block his effort.
Long range attempts by Ben O’Connor and Ryan Martinelli were easily dealt with by the stopper before he made a great save from Pitt. Eventually though Killeen was caught out by Tom Zanoski, debuting for Steelers following his signing two days earlier. The Croatian-Canadian dual national fired to the left to give the visitors the lead on 30mins 23secs.
Less than a minute later Tim Wallace was penalised for holding – a strange call which should have been preceded by an icing call against Steelers. Unperturbed it was Lightning who broke short-handed with Valdix feeding Baillargeon to tuck the puck away for the equaliser on 32mins 56secs.
That’s the way the score remained at the second break but nevertheless it looked as though Steelers were the more likely winners.
And so it proved – even though it was not until 53mins 58secs that they went ahead when Dowd was credited with having the final touch on a rocket from the blue line by fellow Great Britain team-mate O’Connor.
Lightning’s fate was to all intents and purposes sealed then – if not it certainly was after Wallace was sent to the cooler for hooking in the 56th minute – Dowd finishing off from Mark Mathieson on the powerplay at 57mins 41secs.
MK withdrew Killeen for the extra skater with 1min 6secs remaining with the wrong result as Evan McGrath supplied Owens to fire home on the empty net to make it 4-1 with 14 seconds remaining – Baillargeon’s frustration earning him a game misconduct penalty for abuse of an official at the same time.
Few could argue with the result on another disappointing night for Lightning.
Man of the match: James Griffin (sponsored by 123 Internet Group)