Sheffield Steelers 5-1 MK Lightning (23rd March)
By Paul Brookman
A third period Georgs Golovkovs strike was all Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s travelling army of noisy fans had to cheer about as the team visited the FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield for the final time on Saturday.
Four goals in the latter half of the first period effectively saw Sheffield Steelers wrap up the win in the opening 20 minutes against a Lightning side icing six fewer players. As such the stacks were stacked against them from the opening whistle and when Steelers bagged a fifth goal before the half way mark there was no real prospect of anything but a fourth defeat in five meetings between the two sides this season.
The shock 3-2 win in Sheffield on the opening day of the Elite League season in September was but a distant memory.
While it did not signal the start of a successful campaign for Lightning neither did it spark a great season for their opponents. Indeed when the two combatants met last in January Sheffield were struggling to make the play-offs – just two places above MK who were occupying the familiar position of bottom spot.
Since then Steelers’ form has undergone a revival – taking 23 points from 19 games since then – including the latest win against Lightning who have picked up eight points from 17 engagements in an identical period. While MK are still anchored at the foot of the table, Steelers have moved up to fifth place.
In a clash notable for the total absence of penalties called by referees Tom Darnell and Chris Wells, the home outfit opened the scoring on 10mins 26secs when John Armstrong – one of the players called back to rescue Steelers’ season after their poor start – set up Robert Dowd to beat goalie Patrick Killeen.
Just over three minutes later, at 13mins 56secs, Sheffield doubled their advantage when former Lightning man Eric Neiley – another Steelers’ mid-season returnee – supplied Josh McFadden to finish off.
Worse was to come before the first intermission with McFadden and Ryan Martinelli involved when Dowd hit his second and Sheffield’s third at 17mins 44secs before Steelers’ Brandon Whistle took the tally to four, assisted by Jonas Westerling and Ben O’Connor 57 seconds from the buzzer.
Any thoughts of a second period fightback by Lightning were dismissed by Steelers who again restricted the visitors’ shots on goal chances to six. That was at least better than in the first session when they managed a mere three.
To add to the misery Steelers made it 5-0 on 27mins 32secs through veteran captain Jonathan Phillips, aided by McGrath and O’Connor.
It was not until the third session that Lightning fans had anything much to cheer about – Golovkovs breaking the side’s duck with a consolation goal on 44mins 35secs – Trevor Morbeck and Tim Wallace earning points for the helpers.
Man of the match: Tim Wallace (sponsored by Bill's Minibus & Coach Hire)
Main image: Dean Woolley