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It was not a night to remember when Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning returned to the Skydome at Coventry on Saturday for the first time since their English Premier League Play Off victory in 2017.
That 7-2 triumph against Telford Tigers became a distant memory as Lightning went down 4-1 to Leeds Chiefs on a night which was capped by an ankle injury to key forward Robin Kovar who limped off with only a quarter hour of the game played.
This was a home fixture for Leeds who are due to play their first home game at their new Elland Road rink on Friday. But with a double decker bus full of MK fans making the journey to Coventry it could have easily been mistaken for home game for Lightning.
However the MK army soon found their heroes out of sorts from early in the game and seconds after Kovar’s injury when fell into the boards after clashing with Richard Bentham the team fell behind when Liam Charnock supplied Joe Coulter to beat goalie Dean Skinns on 15mins 18secs.
Chiefs could have been two goals to the good at the first break when Skinns thwarted a three on one challenge in the dying minutes.
Lightning had a disastrous start to the middle session, conceding twice in 12 seconds in the opening minute. It took Ethan Hehir just 35 seconds to double Leeds’ advantage from Andres Kopstals’ set-up.
And on 20mins 44secs MK were reeling when Adam Barnes and recent signing, Czech Patrik Valcak, had a hand in Lewis Houston’s strike to make it 3-0. Coach Lewis Clifford called an immediate time-out but it failed to improve the visitors’ offensive chances with too many opportunities proving easy for goalie Sam Gospel to save.
Chiefs went further in front on 32mins 10secs thanks to Charnock who finished off from Coulter and Connor Henderson – the 4-0 tally making it an almost insurmountable tally for MK to overcome. Their chances were further hindered when Tomas Kana ended the period in the sin bin on an elbows penalty.
The MK penalty kill units saw off the short-handed spell and finally gave their fans something to cheer about when captain Russ Cowley registered after 45mins 45secs – the supply coming from Rio Grinell-Parke and Cale Tanaka.
By this stage Lightning had stepped up their game but it was too late to alter the result and when they failed to add to their score on a five on three powerplay before losing Cowley for two minutes on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Chiefs were able to secure the win.
Man of the match: Ross Green.
Photo: Tony Sargent