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What an evening at Planet Ice when 1,435 lucky fans were treated to a spectacular match with end to end actions, overtime and penality shots settling a highly entertaining encounter between Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning and Hull Pirates, which ended 8-7 in MK’s favour. Home fans were in fine voice and the barn was rocking as the Lightning brought home the victory.
It was a never say die attitude, mental strength, attacking skill and some fine team play which helped MK secure a morale boosting two points. The encounter’s closing period was not one for those of a nervous disposition as Lightning tied the game up at 4-4 with a Liam Stewart powerplay rocket from level with the right circle on 41mins 15secs before MK took the lead through a Leigh Jamieson blueliner on 50mins 11secs.
Few could then have predicted what would happen before the end of regulation time as the game resembled a shoot-out at the OK Corral – Jonathan Kirk equalised for Hull on the powerplay at 51mins 53secs, just seconds after Rio Grinell-Parke was called for a high stick and Grant McPherson was handed a 10 minute misconduct penalty for his protests to the officials.
Hull were still on the powerplay when player coach Jason Hewitt edged them in front on 53mins 46secs but within a minute Lightning were back at level pegging as Tomas Kana assisted when Cale Tanaka poked the puck in at the right hand post at 53mins 13secs.
There was further drama to come with former Lightning favourite Bobby Chamberlain beating goalie Dean Skinns at the left hand side of goal on 54mins 57secs only for Jamieson to catch Hull goalie Ashley Smith out again from the blue line to make it 7-7 after 56mins 55secs.
Yet all of this would not have been possible but for the brilliant goal scoring prowess of Stewart whose hat-trick kept Lightning in with the chance of the upset, and a strong debut with 4 assists and hitting the metalwork twice in the first period.
Stewart’s first goal on 3mins 20secs was a poke in from right in front of goal – a strike which saw MK’s new signing Robin Kovar pick up his first assist alongside Rio Grinell-Parke. But within a couple of minutes Peter Fabus had put Pirates level at 5mins 32secs. Grinell-Parke was sin binned for cross checking in the 15th minute giving Hull the chance to score with the extra man through Lee Bonner from the right hand side at 16mins 42secs – former MK player David Norris credited with one of the assists.
Hull caught Lightning’s defence cold to increase their lead within 48 seconds of the start of the middle period – Hewitt the scorer from Norris. Then came Stewart’s second goal 1min 6secs into the middle period – and it was something special. Kovar sent him away for a one on one with Smith and he did not disappoint beating the netminder to almost immediately cut the arrears.
Once more the encounter seemed to be slipping away from the home side with Hull’s fourth goal from Norris at 30mins 54secs on a powerplay resulting from a tripping call on Ross Green. But then Lightning made the most of the first penalty of the game incurred by Pirates – Steven Chalmers consigned to the cooler for interference with Tanaka getting the final touch to a Jamieson blast from the blue line on 35mins 53secs.
That set up a tense third period with Lightning still in the game, trailing 4-3 at the break. Little did the fans know that Lightning would not only go ahead and then fight back twice more to end regulation time all-square. And little could they have imagined that MK would come out on top in a penalty shoot out in which Kana scored first – as cool as a cucumber with a nifty backhand deke on Smith – for the hosts with Chamberlain, Kovar, Bonner, Stewart and then Peter Fabus all failing to convert – Skinns performing heroics in the penalty shoot-out.
Hear what the coaches had to say about the match over on LightningTV
Man of the match: Dean Skinns
Photo: Tony Sargent