Guildford Flames ended Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s six game winning run with a 4-1 victory at MK Arena on Saturday.
Lightning failed to click into gear until they had finally broken their duck with Frankie Bakrlik’s scrambled 48th minute goal – but by then it was too late to retrieve the match which Flames led 3-0 at that stage.
In the last ten minutes Lightning tried to pile on the pressure – coach Pete Russell switching the line combinations to try and find the spark to provide a late turn around to the score.
With less than two and a half minutes to go his Flames opposite number, Paul Dixon, called a time out – presumably in an attempt to break the Lightning momentum.
In reply Russell withdrew netminder Przemy Odrobny in favour of the extra skater. Unfortunately the gamble failed to pay off with the impressive Marek Maslonka able to complete his hat-trick with a long range empty net goal at 58mins 49secs to turn the knife in the wound.
The first period had been a cagey affair with neither side able to produce anything to seriously test the netminders.
New Flames netminder Joonas Kuusela – still wearing the shirt of his departed predecessor Richard Ullberg – was tested in the second minute as Lewis Hook set up Frankie Bakrlik.
Tom Carlon made his first appearance since his return to Lightning and his first involvement saw him sent to the sin bin for hooking in the fourth minute. However the Flames powerplay line proved ineffective with Marcus Kristofferson providing the only challenge for Odrobny right at the end of the penalty.
Kristofferson was next to be sent to the cooler for tripping Hook in the eighth minute. But apart from efforts by Sam Jones and Bakrlik there was little to bother Kuusela.
Back at even strength Mikolaj Lopuski and Bakrlik tried to break the Flames’ goalie’s resistance without success.
There was a little excitement in the 13th minute as James Griffin and Maslonka had a bust up following Jez Lundin’s cross checking offence – the two combatants both earning four minutes in the sin bin for roughing.
The ensuing Lightning powerplay failed to break the deadlock with the first session ending scoreless.
That changed though within 1min 2secs of the start of the middle session due to a powerplay for Flames following a too many men call on the hosts hanging over from the dying seconds of the opening stanza.
Tom Duggan was the provider for Maslonka who opened his account with a long range blast which Odrobny probably didn’t see until it was too late.
As the half way mark approached Hook, Craig Scott and Milan Baranyk all had attempts which Kuusela was able to deal with. Bakrlik and Bobby Chamberlain also had efforts easily dealt with before Duggan’s shot hit the side netting.
When Michael Farn was called for hooking on 34mins 42secs Flames took full advantage of the chance to double their lead – Eriksson supplying Matic Kralj who was given far too much space and time to pick his spot high to the left of goal at 35mins 18secs.
Going into the third period Lightning desperately needed an early goal to swing things their way.
Instead it was the visitors who tightened their grip with the easiest of strikes by Maslonka – the assists going to Duggan and Ben Campbell on 41mins 11secs.
It looked increasingly unlikely that the home team would be able to maintain their winning streak as the game went on.
But home fans’ hopes were raised when Kuusela was eventually beaten with what could be described as a ‘messy’ goal on 48mins 19secs, Bakrlik getting the final touch to a puck which slithered across the line after good work by Hook and Griffin.
The final nail was struck home as Maslonka competed his hat-trick 1min 11 secs from the buzzer to complete Lightning’s misery.
Man of the Match: #15 James Griffin
Report: Paul Brookman
NEXT HOME GAME: Lightning v Telford Tigers, 7pm Saturday 8 October. Tickets on sale now at 01908 540020 or click here to book online.