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A late goal from former Elite League player Matt Bissonnette wrecked Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s hopes of picking up at least a point when they went down 4-3 at Hull Pirates on Sunday.
Lightning had fought their way back into the game to equalise through an unassisted Cale Tanaka goal on 49mins 21secs before Bissonnette, who has seen service with Manchester Storm, Belfast Giants and Dundee Stars, edged the game for Pirates at 51mins 40secs.
Both teams were missing players from their line-ups – with Jamie Chilcott and Bobby Chamberlain both absent for Pirates while MK were without the injured James Griffin and Robin Kovar plus Tom Carlon, goalie Dean Skinns whose place was taken by Brandon Stones and Lewis Christie who was celebrating the birth of his second daughter earlier.
It was Lightning who were first off the mark when Tomas Kana set up Tanaka to score after 5mins 11secs – Russ Cowley also having a hand in the move which came a couple of minutes after the visitors had a ‘goal’ disallowed.
MK had another opportunity with good play from Kana and Cowley but they were unable to add to the score before Ben Russell denied Hull a chance. However in the final five minutes of the first period Lightning had to be at their best to prevent Pirates from scoring.
That defence of the lead last no more than 30 seconds into the middle period when former MK man David Norris beat netminder Jordan Lawday unassisted. Lightning responded with some good pressure on the Hull defence – Logan Prince and Hallden Barnes-Garner stepping up to the challenge due to player absences.
Lightning’s hard work paid dividends on 26mins 51secs when new signing Taylor Dickin went close to scoring having beaten three Pirates players before Liam Stewart tapped the puck in to make it 2-1.
Hull incurred the first penalty of the night as Lee Bonner was called for hooking. But instead of being able to make the most of the powerplay Lightning conceded an equaliser to Norris who stole the puck and beat Lawday one on one at 30mins 36secs.
The visitors’ rhythm was then disrupted slightly by the temporary absence of Kana who lost the blade of one of his skates – he was to return to action only to have repeats of the problem later in the game.
After Ross Green was sin binned for interference in the 35th minute Pirates took the powerplay opportunity to level when the experienced former Great Britain defenceman Kevin Phillips finished off from a set up involving Bissonnette and Sam Towner on 37mins 17secs.
The third period saw Pirates piling on the pressure, forcing Lawday into a number of fine saves and Lightning seeing off a penalty on Ben Russell for holding. Despite that – and Kana having skate problems twice more – the travelling side were able to equalise through man of the match Tanaka in the 49th minute only for dual Canadian-UK national Bissonette to put Pirates back in front a couple of minutes later.
Man of the match: Cale Tanaka.
Photo: Tony Sargent