A 57th minute goal killed off any hope short-benched Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning had of pulling off a welcome victory against Manchester Storm at MK Arena on Wednesday.
And when Storm scored on an empty net with 18 seconds remaining it pull a slightly unreal perspective on the scoreline as the Altrincham based side claimed a 4-1 win.
Lightning were without injury victims Tommy Mele, Kyle Essery and Miika Wiikman as well as the suspended Denny Kearney and Matt Nickerson while Henry Pacl again gave an impressive display in goal deputising for Wiikman.
The absences forced coach Pete Russell to switch around the forward lines with James Griffin moving from defence to partner Alex Forbes and Jonathan Boxill up front, his speed proving an asset as he picked up the man of the match award.
Pacl was the busier of the two goalies early on, pulling off a fine save from Mike Hammond before Storm stopper Mike Clemente was penalised for holding in the eighth minute. The powerplay saw Lewis Hook produced a well-worked move with Francis Verreault-Paul – the Canadian having his effort blocked by the goalie.
Back at even strength Paul Phillips tested the netminder from the blue line before Hook set up Guillaume Doucet, only for the recipient to get too close to Clemente to cause any damage.
The opening goal to put Lightning ahead, short-handed, came after Phillips was sin binned at 14mins 46secs for interference on Luke Moffatt – Kevin King supplying Christian Isackson for an upstairs shot to the right of Clemente at 16mins 14secs.
But MK’s joy was short-lived thanks to Dallas Ehrhardt’s blue line blast through traffic which was redirected past Pacl by Dane Byers just 43 seconds later.
That’s the way the score remained for next half hour – not that the game lacked incidents. One minute three seconds into the middle period Carl Hudson was sidelined for holding and once again while short-handed Lightning came up with a chance orchestrated by Hook and fired by Verreault-Paul. However Clemente blocked the effort while Manchester’s best opportunity with the man advantage probably being Matt Stanisz’s blue line effort being blocked by the netminder’s chest.
Clemente kept the MK tally to one goal when Andy McKinney was called for interference in the 31st minute, saving from first Carl Hudson and then Verreault-Paul.
A couple of minutes later there was a scramble in front of the MK net before eventually the puck was cleared from danger.
As the period came to a close Phillips went agonisingly close in front of the Manchester net but the puck was cleared without any score.
Storm almost took the lead after Verreault-Paul was sin binned for elbows in the 43rd minute – Stanisz’s long range shot pinging off the metalwork before Ryan Trenz’s long blast was stopped by Pacl.
Lightning’s resistance eventually cracked when Ehrhardt’s pass to Jay Rosehill on the left resulted in a shot which caught out Pacl at 46mins 7secs. Two minutes later Ben Foster was unlucky not to score with a fine shot, ahead of MK having a ‘goal’ rightly washed out, the official’s whistle clearly heard before the puck crossed the line.
A time-out by Storm with 5mins 58secs to go soon had the desired effect with the visitors putting the game beyond MK’s reach when Ciaran Long finished off following good work by Matt Beca at 57mins 34secs.
In a last throw of the dice Russell called a time out with 1min 29secs remaining and immediately took off Pacl for the extra skater. The move allowed Storm to cap their win with a slightly strangely taken empty net goal 18 seconds from the buzzer.
Breaking out of defence Ehrhardt in the corner fed Shane Bakker right in front of goal for the simplest of tap-ins for a 4-1 win.
Man of the match: James Griffin.
Report By Paul Brookman