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REPORT: Coventry Blaze 5-3 Lightning

Scott Wiggins

By Paul Brookman

A devastating opening 13 minutes in which Coventry Blaze scored four goals proved enough to wreck the hopes of Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning at the Skydome on Sunday.

Although Lightning were able to come up with a swift response to Coventry’s opener they were prevented from finding the net again in the first session – lightning eventually going down 5-3.

Ben Lake forced the first serious save from goalie Miika Wiikman on the two minute mark before Ryan Dingle found Marc-Olivier Vallerand to open Blaze’s account after 3mins 17secs.

Just 17 seconds later the tallies were level when captain Kevin King registered unassisted past stopper Kevin Nastiuk ahead of the first penalty of the game which fell to Lightning with Matt Nickerson sin binned for interference.

The visitors managed to keep Blaze at bay while a man short but they couldn’t prevent the hosts’ captain Jordan Pietrus from putting his team back in the driving seat on 9mins 28secs – also unaided.

Blaze did better when Carl Hudson was called for interference 16 seconds later – scoring on the resulting powerplay when Garrett Ladd supplied Vallerand to make it 3-1 at 10mins 57secs.

Lightning’s woes continued when 1min 59secs later there was another goal for Danny Stewart’s charges – this time it was Dingle the provider for former MK defenceman, David Clements. That prompted a timeout by Lightning.

The travellers then had two powerplays – overlapping by a few seconds – when first Pietrus was caught hooking and then Vojtech Kloz was put in the cooler for tripping. Six seconds from the end of the first penalty Blaze eventually cracked – Kearney making the pass for King to make it 4-2.

Tommy Mele had a fine chance when he beat three Blaze men only to be denied by Nastiuk in the closing minutes of the first session, ahead of a Kearney chance.

Lightning made a hesitant start to the second before moving up a gear. Despite that Paul Phillips had to be at his best to deny Vallerand his hat-trick.

Mele – aided by Alex Forbes – gave Lightning real hope when he narrowed the gap to one goal after 35mins 39secs and as the period ended Pete Russell’s men piled on the pressure but couldn’t find the equaliser.

The visitors had the puck in the net early in the third period but the attempt was washed out by referee Mike Hicks.

Another powerplay when Blaze’s Dingle went for slashing came and went before Francis Verreault-Paul squared up to Dax Lauwers – the result of which both being ruled out of the next five minutes of play for fighting.

Both teams were reduced to four skaters inside the final ten minutes thanks to delay of the game penalties on Vallerand and Kyle Essery – Blaze quickly losing Dingle for a high stick after King had forced a great save from Nastiuk.

Lightning’s hopes of a leveller before the final couple of minutes were effectively dashed when King was called for cross-checking so the last throw of the dice was necessary in withdrawing goalie Miika Wiikman for the extra skater 40 seconds from the buzzer.

Unfortunately – as on the previous night’s encounter with Nottingham Panthers – the move backfired with Pietrus rounding off Blaze’s win with an empty net goal at 59mins 47secs.

Man of the match: Kevin King

NEXT HOME GAME: Lightning v Coventry 7pm Sat 11 Nov phone 01908 540020 or online mk-Lightning.co.uk