Telford Tigers played their ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card to inflict a heart-breaking crucial defeat on Smith Recycling MK Lightning in a 3-2 result at MK Arena on Saturday.
After dominating 80 per cent of the game Lightning were undone by two lapses in concentration which allowed Tigers – trailing 2-0 at that stage – back into the game, levelling to force the encounter into overtime from which they grabbed the winner after exactly two minutes.
The result left Lightning fans scratching their heads – wondering how the team had lost a top of the table clash which they should have and deserved to have won on the balance of play.
Apart from a spell of maybe five minutes at the start of the second session Tigers were forced on the back foot by a Lightning outfit which, while not always going on an out-and-out attack, were well in command – especially after Jordan Cownie’s finely taken opening goal on 10mins 44secs.
When Lewis Hook added to the tally with a shot high to the right of Tigers’ man of the match goalie, Sam Gospel, after 36mins 53secs it seemed that Lightning were well on course for two huge points to close in on the league leaders.
Coach Pete Russell must have been expecting a big response from Telford at the start of the third period. It didn’t come and early on Lightning were still the team most likely to win even though they were not prepared to throw caution to the wind.
Maybe the lack of offensive play from Tigers lulled the hosts into a false sense of security because suddenly the perspective of the game changed when Milan Kolena was allowed space to go one on one with goalie Przemy Odrobny. The netminder got a touch but could not prevent the puck from going over the line as Tigers reduced the deficit on 50mins 11secs.
Buoyed by that success Tigers were able to make the most of another rare piece of poor defending when veteran Rick Plant caught out Odrobny with a long range shot from the right for the equaliser after 51mins 24secs.
The visitors then went in search of the winner with Kolena denied by Odrobny’s glove before Hook went close and Frankie Bakrlik’s effort from Leigh Jamieson’s set up was blocked.
So overtime loomed in which Tigers were able to make three line changes before MK were able to replace their overtime opening trio – Sam Zajac supplying the experienced Doug Clarkson to blast past Odrobny two minutes into the extra session.
Lightning were probably left regretting that they were unable to press their advantage in the first session
After a tentative opening few minutes Tigers’ recent import signing Lubimor Korhon tested Odrobny without success.
But from then on it was Lightning calling most of the shots with Antti Hölli twice going close in the space of a few seconds – Gospel, preferred over new goalie signing, Jon Baston – able to deal with both efforts.
Telford’s best attempt of the period came in the ninth minute when Matty Davies tried to dummy Odrobny – attempting to go past him but the stopper was more than up to the task.
Lightning broke the deadlock after good work by Hölli which saw him feed the puck to Cownie going up centre ice. The Scot’s first shot was blocked but not held by Gospel and Cownie followed up to give his side the lead on 10mins 44secs.
Thirty seconds later it was almost two for the hosts when Craig Scott supplied Blaz Emersic, only for Gospel to get in the way.
Glenn Billing was next to try his luck without result before Bakrlik robbed Clarkson in the neutral zone and set off on what was a promising move. However he was closed down before reaching the danger area.
Telford were reduced to the occasional long shot – Danny Rose’s effort from the blue line never going to be good enough to beat Odrobny while Hölli closed out the session with more pressure of Gospel.
After an opening 20 minutes in which there were no penalties it was Lightning who had the first powerplay within the first 64 seconds of the middle stanza when Rose was called for tripping Hölli. But nothing came of the man advantage.
Telford’s best spell then followed with Lubimor Korhon shooting past the post and Odrobny the busier of the two goalies for a few minutes.
A dubious call on Odrobny for delaying the game as he cleared the puck saw Kolena and Corey McEwen threatened without success.
From then on though it was back to business for Lightning who regained ascendancy and seemed to have edged a vital step closer to victory with Hook’s marker set up by Cownie.
But in hockey, even more so than in any sport, the old adage that ‘the game’s not over until the fat lady sings’ proved painfully true in this loss.
Report: Paul Brookman