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Three Sheffield Steeldogs goals in less than three minutes proved to be the turning point of what had been till then a close fought game at Planet Ice on Saturday. In the end it was to be too high a mountain to climb for under-strength Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning whose task became even harder when Steeldogs added two more goals in final eight minutes to a record a 5-0 win.
Lightning were missing no less than players through absence or injury – Grant McPherson, James Griffin, Cale Tanaka, Ross Green and Hallden Barnes-Garner all non-starters. As a result, assistant coach Ross Bowers, who suffering a horrifying on-ice accident causing him to lose the sight in one eye only a few months ago, laced up the skates to fill the void. In addition Leigh Jamieson switched from defence to join the forward lines who showed promise early on but lacked the final touch to beat goalie Dmitri Zimozdra. The netminder was tested in the first minute by a Calum Robertson effort and was then saved by the pipework in the third minute when a Tomas Kana blast from distance pinged off the right post.
Sheffield then had the best of the next few minutes with former Steeldog, goalie Brandon Stones denying Vladimir Luka and then Reece Cochrane before a Jamieson shot was blocked but not held by Zimozdra. Unfortunately there was no one there to follow up. The first clash of the night saw Rio Grinell-Parke and Craig Elliott consigned to their respective sin bins for roughing in the 15th minute. The visitors’ Nathan Salem joined Elliott less than a minute later on an elbows call, giving Lightning a powerplay which ended with Jordan Stokes penalised for roughing. All of this was of no consequence to the score which ended 0-0 at the conclusion of the first period.
The second session was only 50 seconds old when Tim Smith was caught tripping. However MK were unable to capitalise on the powerplay and in fact were nearly caught out with a two on one short-handed break – Ari Närhi intercepting an attempted pass. Steeldogs eventually opened the scoring on the powerplay after Ben Russell was sin binned for slashing – Luka defeating Stones with a blue line rocket on 31mins 25secs following a set-up from Elliott. The visitors doubled their advantage after 33mins 7secs when player coach Ben Morgan supplied Jan Danecek who skated across the face of goal before turning the puck into the net.
And things became even more difficult for the hosts as Alex Graham found Cameron Brownley in space to fire past Stones after 34mins 14secs – the goalie possibly getting a touch to the puck but unable to stop it hitting the net. Lightning were afforded a very brief five on three powerplay at the start of the final session – Graham joining Jordan Griffin in the penalty box but they could not make it pay as they were unable to get enough shots on goal. Stones then made a great stop from Danecek minutes later, followed by another good block from Elliott as Steeldogs sought to increase their lead.
As the game went into the final ten minutes Lewis Christie, looking as assured as he ever was in defence, sent Jamieson away but he was unable to produce a good enough effort to beat Zimozdra. Seconds later Steeldogs increased their lead when a Nathan Salem shot from the right was stopped but not held by Stones and the same player was able to finish off at second attempt on 52mins 11secs.
MK’s tough night was then compounded when Graham found Luka unmarked on the left to add a fifth goal on 58mins 54secs while Russ Cowley was sitting out hooking penalty.
Lightning head to Bracknell on Sunday 6th, the Bees also having suffered a 5-0 shutout. Cale Tanaka returns for the Lighting.
Man of the match: Rio Grinell-Parke.