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Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning recorded their ninth win in the past 11 games when they saw off a late Bracknell Bees challenge on Sunday to chalk up a 5-4 success.
In a closely fought encounter both teams traded goals at The Hive until Lightning finally broke Bees resolve in the third period with two strikes to edge to a 5-3 scoreline. But there was an almost immediate response from the hosts as Harvey Stead banged in a fourth goal to cut the gap the one with less than four minutes remaining.
It means that the league series between MK and Bees ends with honours even – the Berkshire outfit winning the first two meetings and Lewis Clifford’s team the second two as they consolidated their sixth position in the National Ice Hockey League.
Bees opened their account on the powerplay as the result of a hooking call on Grant McPherson with Josh Ealey-Newman the supplier for Aidan Doughty to beat netminder Dean Skinns on 6mins 20secs.
Bees survived one penalty called against captain Stuart Mogg for tripping in the eighth minute but they were not so lucky when his assistant James Galazzi was caught for elbows in the 14th minute. This time MK were able to level through Liam Stewart who finished off from Tomas Kana after 15mins 29secs. That’s the way the score stayed at the first break despite James Griffin being consigned to the sin bin for two minutes late on for delaying the game.
Lightning began the second session with real purpose and it was not long before Leigh Jamieson and Stewart set to work to find Robin Kovar to finish off past goalie Adam Goss on 21mins 24secs. However Bees hit back quickly with former MK junior Ed Knaggs blasting home from the blue line after 23mins 18secs.
Griffin visited the cooler twice in the ensuing minutes – for holding and then slashing – while McPherson was back there for a high stick. However there was no way through for the Bees powerplay units and the second period ended all square at two apiece.
Skinns kept Lightning in the game early in the third after Stewart gave the puck away before the deadlock was finally broken after Brendan Baird was called for tripping in the 48th minute. That gave MK their breakthrough as Russ Cowley started the move that saw Jamieson supply Kana for the visitors’ third goal at 49mins 23secs.
Sixty six seconds later daylight was finally put between the two combatants as McPherson was provider for Cale Tanaka to register on the powerplay – this time Mogg was in the sin bin for 12 minutes for a check to the head.
With the score at 4-2 in MK’s favour it looked as though the visitors had the game under control but Bees had other idea as they narrowed the gap to one when Roman Malinik scored unassisted with 4mins 44secs remaining. Just 25 seconds later Kovar supplied Jamieson to restore the two goal advantage, only for Bees to reply almost immediately as Harvey Stead, aided by veteran Joe Baird and Malinik at 56mins 28secs.
It set up a tense finale to the battle but even when Bees withdrew goalie Goss for the extra skater with just over a minute left MK would not be broken as they maintained the 5-4 score.
Man of the match: Liam Stewart.