MK Lightning 3-6 Coventry Blaze (9th March)
By Paul Brookman
Two third period goals in just over a minute knocked the stuffing out of Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning as they went down 6-3 to local rivals Coventry Blaze at Planet Ice on Saturday.
Until that moment Lightning looked an equal match for the side one place above them in the Elite League – despite their ranks being further depleted by the absence of Cole Shudra. That meant Trevor Morbeck who had being playing in defence in recent weeks was moved back to his more familiar position among the forwards to allow three full lines to be iced.
Lightning fell foul of the referees on three occasions in the first period but Coventry were unable to take advantage on any of the powerplays. Indeed it was the hosts who scored first while Robbie Baillargeon was sitting out a cross checking penalty handed out after 1min 57secs. With 14 seconds remaining on the call, Michael Fine intercepted a Blaze play and went up the right before shooting through goalie Matt Hackett’s legs.
Morbeck went close to making it 2-0 in the seventh minute but this time Hackett was able to claim the puck, seconds before Nelson Armstrong was sin binned for cross checking at 7mins 35secs. MK survived the short handed spell with Blaze unable to make much impression.
Back at even strength Ben Lake saw his shot from an Alex Nikiforuk pass blocked by netminder Patrick Killeen.
Lake – this time set up by Thom Flodqvist – went close again in the 14th minute, seconds before Martin Mazanec was sent to the cooler for tripping. But another poor powerplay by the visitors ended with Mazanec emerging from the box to put Baillargeon away for what was a fruitless raid on goal.
With less than a minute gone at the start of the second session Tim Wallace had a shot saved by Hackett between his legs.
Mazanec was back in the sin bin on 23 minutes – this time for hooking – and on this occasion Blaze made Lightning pay through Nikiforuk, set up by Nicolai Bryhnisveen, for the equaliser at 23mins 39secs.
The home side’s first powerplay came after 27mins 42secs when Luke Ferrara was called for slashing. Baillargeon, then David Norris had a go in a crowded goalmouth – the former incurring two minutes in the sin bin for tripping for his efforts.
Coventry edged in front after 36mins 17secs as Tim Crowder was able to pick his spot with Killeen already committed on the ice. They then successfully defended a short handed spell when Chris Joyaux was caught holding his opponent.
But Lightning ended the period all square thanks to Tim Wallace who found himself in space to take a cross ice pass and blast it past Hackett at 39mins 12secs.
The deciding moments of the game came on 44mins 45secs when Ross Venus supplied fellow Brit Luke Ferrara to put Blaze back in front again. This time there was no reply from Lightning and 1min 15secs later Lake looked as though he would pass to Flodqvist but instead fired home for the visitors’ fourth strike of the night.
Crowder found a gap to the left of Killeen to stretch Blaze’s lead further after 48mins 34secs before a moment of concern for Coventry with Norris’s shot hitting Hackett in the face, forcing him to the ice. Fortunately he was able to recover.
MK could make nothing of a further man advantage as Georgs Golovkovs went down – victim of a kneeing by Crowder – there was plenty of pressure but nothing in the way of shots.
With 1min 30secs to go Killeen was withdrawn in favour of the extra skater as MK went in search of a face saving third goal. It took just eight seconds for the move to backfire – Venus saying thank you very much with an empty net goal.
There was some doubt in the officials’ minds about MK’s third goal just 52 seconds from the buzzer – however a quick video review showed Baillargeon’s effort had gone in the net and rebounded out so the third goal stood for Lightning in a 6-3 defeat.
Man of the match: Michael Fine (sponsored by AAMS).