It was drama all the way as Smith Recycling MK Lightning went clear at the top of the English Premier League after clinching a nail-biting 5-4 victory against Hull Pirates at MK Arena on Saturday.
Lightning fell two goals behind at the end of the first period before pulling back to level by the end of the second. They then edged in front early in the final stanza but saw Hull fight back to go a goal in arrears before ending Pirates’ hopes with two goals in less than 90 seconds.
Hull came to battle from the first buzzer – unlike the Pirates of last season that were fighting to avoid the wooden spoon, this year’s outfit mean business. The hosts soon knew they would be no pushovers with former MK star Stan Lascek and Jamie Chilcott testing goalie Przemy Odrobny in the opening minutes.
Lightning drew the first penalty of the game when Blaz Emersic was penalised for tripping on 4mins 34secs. Pirates didn’t waste the opportunity with an extra man when Lee Haywood blasted in from the blue line, the puck running loose to be finished off by Jason Hewitt on 6mins 17secs.
MK sought to get back in the contest with Mikolaj Lopuski and Lewis Hook testing former MK stopper Jordan Marr.
Frankie Bakrlik was next to visit the sin bin for slashing. On the powerplay there was a lot of pushing and shoving by Odrobny’s left pipe but strangely no penalties were called.
James Griffin was called shortly afterwards for roughing and that provided Hull with the chance to double their advantage.
After a lot of pressure Odrobny was beaten by a fine upstairs shot from the right by Pirates’ player coach Dominic Osman.
Outshot in the first session Lightning put that right in the middle period and they quickly cut the deficit when Blaz Emersic set up James Griffin for a shot which went in on the right hand side of Marr just 53 seconds after the restart.
Pirates’ Ryan Watt was sin binned for hooking in the 25th minute and his side were made to pay as Bakrlik blasted towards goal from the right. The puck was spilled and Milan Baranyk got a touch before Leigh Jamieson finished off at 26mins 49secs.
Four on four Andrej Themar had his shot saved by Odrobny while Hook, sent away by Michael Farn, was unable to beat Marr.
With the tallies level at two each going into the third it was still all to play for and it was Lightning who went in front on the powerplay – Themar in the box for clipping. Lopuski smashed a piledriver from the blue line, Marr failed to hold it and Hook put the puck away at 3-2.
If home fans thought that was enough then they were wrong, despite Odrobny thwarting Watt’s penalty shot after he was adjudged to have been brought down with a clear chance on goal by Sam Jones.
Jonathan Kirk squared things up for Hull at 50mins 16secs and the topsy-turvey game swung the visitors’ way thanks to a penalty on Griffin for a check to the head of Lee Haywood – Nathan Salem registering on the resulting powerplay at 52mins 42secs.
But the game wasn’t over and when captain Adam Carr fed Glenn Billing to finish off from close range at 55mins 5secs it was level pegging once again.
That was not the end of the drama though – Watt penalised for holding Bakrlik in front of the Hull goal should have scuppered any hopes Pirates had of withdrawing their netminder for the extra skater. However they did so – even attempting to ice six skaters when they should have only had five due to Watt’s penalty.
Hogarth failed to notice until the shouts from the crowd seemed to alert him.
Equally oddly Hogarth decided to add an extra two seconds to the game after the final buzzer had sounded with a face off in MK’s defensive zone – it proved of no consequence.
Even after the second sounding of the buzzer there were more incidents with Bakrlik receiving a game misconduct for resisting an official and his opposite number, Lascek being assessed four minutes for roughing.
MKL Man of the Match: Sam Jones
Report: Paul Brookman
NEXT HOME GAME: Lightning v Guildford Flames, 7pm Saturday 1 October; tickets 01908 540020 or online http://iceaccount.co.uk/events/tickets_select?embed=1&client_id=16