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REPORT: MKL 3-2 Manchester Storm (7 Oct)

Tony Sargent

By  Paul Brookman

Short benched Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning pulled off an incredible – and unlikely – 3-2 victory against Elite League leaders Manchester Storm at MK Arena on Saturday.

Lightning were missing three injured players – James Griffin, Kevin Gibson and Christian Isackson – plus the suspended Francis Verreault-Paul, but had new signing, Brit Sam Godfrey, released by Guildford Flames a day or so before, in their ranks.

The odds were stacked against Lightning and they looked to be staring defeat in the face after Storm established a two goal lead early in the second period.

But Storm had not accounted for the grit and sheer determination of a Lightning side who were determined to maintain their unbeaten home record and played most of the game with only four defencemen.

While Storm dominated long periods

End of first period & it’s all square. Lightning 0 – Storm 0

of the play Lightning snuffed out the danger where it mattered most – in front of goal. That was never more so than in the first couple of minutes of the final session when the visitors had the Lightning net under intense pressure but were unable to put the puck in the goal despite some desperate defending.

It was only when Carl Hudson was able to bring the puck out over the blue line that there was some relief.
Early on Linden Springer produced a fine chance for Manchester when he shot through traffic after four minutes, only for goalie Miika Wiikman to somehow get to the puck.

A minute or so later Lewis Hook saw his shot pushed away by Storm stopper Mike Clemente before Storm turned on the pressure with Matt Beca shooting wide after Ryan Trenz had seen his effort pushed away by the netminder.

Denny Kearney and Kevin King crashed the net in the 14th minute but couldn’t find a way past Clemente.
The first and only penalty of the first session came after Jay Rosehill was called for tripping Hook behind the Manchester goal in the 17th minute. But MK’s chances on the powerplay were virtually zero.

It took 2mins 26secs of the middle stanza for Storm to edge in front when Shane Bakker redirected a blast from Rosehill, out on the left.

Lightning survived penalties on Kevin King for a high stick, when they were put under intense pressure, and a slashing call on Kyle Essery.

But they conceded a second goal while even handed through Matt Beca on 27mins 31secs and many expected the floodgates to open.

However MK were not about to cave in and Paul Phillips issued a statement of intent when he went forward and got a shot away which Clemente only managed to save with a skate.

A time out by Manchester did not have the desired effect – instead Lightning went on a three pronged attacked with Hook blasting home a superb goal from the right on 34mins 35secs.
It was game on and Russell’s charges went in search of the equaliser – King seized the puck in the defensive zone and broke away, only to see Clemente thwart his effort.

But the Lightning captain made amends shortly after when, with the netminder stranded on the ice, he fired high into the far side of the goal from the left hand side for the leveller at 38mins 34secs.

Storm started the third session like they meant business in trying to find another go ahead goal. For MK at this stage it was a question of backs to the wall – and they did it superbly under siege for the first couple of minutes.

Having survived Lightning were able to regain their composure but had to keep Storm at bay after a slashing call on Jonathan Boxill in the 46th minute – a Storm powerplay that was curtailed when Dane Byers was penalised for tripping.

As the encounter entered its final ten minutes there was a sense that MK could snatch the win – Essery unsuccessfully trying his luck from distance.

That came shortly before Denny Kearney raised the rafters of the MK Arena with a stunning goal – shooting high into the net on 56mins 37secs as Guillaume Doucet was doing battle with Dallas Ehrhardt behind the Manchester goal.

Pete Russell called a time out with 2mins 32secs to go – to try to disrupt Storm – and while the visitors withdrew Clemente in favour of the extra skater they were unable to find an equaliser to avoid what was only their second loss in seven league games.

Man of the match: Paul Phillips.

NEXT HOME GAME: MKL v Coventry Blaze, 7pm Saturday 14 Oct – tickets from mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets or call 01908 540020.