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REPORT: Lightning 4-3 Wildcats (APS) 11 Feb

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Mikolaj Lopuski returned to the Smith Recycling MK Lightning line up for the first time in more than four months – and he made an immediate impact.

After scoring the team’s second goal which fired their third period revival he went on to put Swindon Wildcats on the back foot in a penalty shoot out scoring on MK’s first shot. The game was then decided by Antti Hölli’s successful shot after the Great Wall of Milton Keynes, Przemy Odrobny, blocked both of Swindon’s attempts by Tomasz Malasinski and Robin Kovar.

Lopuski’s inclusion after his long injury was greeted with a massive cheer by the Lightning faithful and he quickly found his shooting boots with a shot which went past the post while the visitors’ captain Jan Kostal was sitting out a hooking penalty dished out after only 56 seconds.

His return meant that Milan Baranyk became the import to be rested – MK now having six fit imports.

MK’s powerplay was aborted prematurely when Jordan Cownie was handed a two minute spell in the sin bin for cross-checking. While the sides were four on four Wildcats recent recruit from  Manchester Phoenix, Kovar, was denied a decent shot by the combined efforts of the home defence.

There was a golden opportunity when Lightning returned to full strength – Lewis Hook sending Cownie away as he came out of the penalty box but the Scot was unable to beat Lyle one on one.

Tom Carlon then had a shot saved by Lyle’s pads before man of the match Odrobny pushed away a Max Birbraer effort.

Some fine defensive work by Craig Scott denied Malasinski the chance of a good shot.

The next penalty fell to MK when Luc Johnson was consigned to the cooler on 16mins 56secs for a high stick – the best Swindon could come up with was a Kovar attempt which Odrobny easily dealt with.

Lightning then stunned Swindon with a break away – Blaz Emersic fed Scott going up the left with the return pass being directed past Lyle for a short handed goal at 18mins 34secs.

But Lighting’s joy was short lived with Phil Hill setting up Kovar to fire high to the right of Odrobny for the equaliser 34 seconds from the first break.

The host quickly found themselves defending a short handed spell at the beginning of  the middle period when Hölli was called for delaying the game after hitting the puck over the boards.

Odrobny pulled off a great double save from Toms Rutkis before Hölli came straight out the penalty box to go one on one with Lyle – unfortunately the stopper was equal to his shot.

Swindon edged ahead on 31mins 3secs with what could be described as an unfortunate goal. Odrobny saved Kovar’s shot with his glove and clearly had control of the puck before he fell back across his goal line – referee Tim Pickett not blowing his whistle until he had done so.

Scott had a chance to put Lightning back level in the 34th minute when he went in at the left pipe but Lyle closed the gap.

The game looked to be slipping away from Lightning when Kovar fed the puck across the face of goal for Malasinski to poke home 1min 25secs into the third period.

But then came Lopuski to centre stage. Fed by captain Adam Carr from the left he smashed the puck high into the net beyond the reach of Lyle to cut the gap on 43mins 46secs.

The home outfit survived a scare after Frankie Bakrlik was sin binned for holding in the 47th minute with Carr attempting a shot on the turn before Hölli went up the left. However the finish wasn’t good enough.

Going into the final few minutes of regulation time Lightning upped the gas and it was from a moment of confusion in front of the net that Bakrlik was able to find Scott at the left hand side of goal to snatch the equaliser on 56mins 9secs.

The goal was enough to send the game into overtime which failed to separate the two sides and thus penalties were required with maximum points going to Lightning to keep their slim chance of lifting the league title alive – Telford also recording a win on the night.

Man of the Match: Przemyslaw Odrobny

Report: Paul Brookman