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Telford Tigers’ experienced and well-oiled roster proved too much for Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning as the hosts went down 5-2 at Planet Ice on Saturday. Lightning were still missing players – including captain Russ Cowley – which meant coach Lewis Clifford had to reshuffle the lines again with Brodie Jesson accompanying Tomas Kana and Cale Tanaka on the first line.
Most of the Telford squad have been together for many years and while Lightning held them at bay in the first period the visitors’ cohesion showed in the end – even though the home side were first off the mark while short-handed early in the second period. Tigers drew the first penalty of the game after only 1min 36secs when Thomas McKinnon was called for interference. Unfortunately MK could not do much on the powerplay with the visitors’ Andy McKinney instead bringing about a fine stop from goalie Jordan Lawday.
Ari Närhi, set up by James Griffin, saw his sixth minute long range effort blocked by Tigers’ goalie Bradley Day ahead of Jesson being penalised for slashing. Despite a scramble in which veteran Rick Plant was involved Lightning survived the short-handed spell. Lawday did well to save a shot through traffic while Calum Robertson, on a breakaway, had his shot saved by the goalie and then Närhi’s attempt met the same fate. The first period ended scoreless but that quickly changed after the break when Lightning were penalised for having too many men on the ice. Despite being short-handed Kana broke away to deke Day, and slot home to his right, to give Lightning the lead at 22mins 57secs.
Sadly for Lightning the advantage lasted all of 15 seconds with Tigers quickly equalising on their powerplay thanks to Czech import Dominik Florian. And they soon capitalised on the goal to edge in front just over a minute later at 24mins 14secs when Ross Kennedy was given too much space to shoot to the left of Lawday. Lightning fell further behind on 30mins 46secs when Lawday appeared to have stopped a shot from Tigers’ new recruit from Sheffield Steelers, Brandon Whistle, but the puck crept over the line.
Robertson was unlucky not have registered from a Harry Ferguson pass shortly afterwards and then Tanaka shot wide before James Griffin and Daniel Mitchell clashed, both earning four minutes in their respective sin bins for roughing. Any hope Lightning had of turning the score around effectively evaporated at the start of the third session while Robertson was sitting out a slashing penalty. Within seven seconds Lawday was caught out of position by a Finlay Howells shot from the right to extend Tigers’ lead to three at 42mins 17secs.
That put MK back at full strength – but not for long with Lewis Christie going for interference just 30 seconds later. Tigers’ powerplay was ended almost as swiftly when Scott McKenzie was caught hooking Närhi. The Finn came close to making Telford pay for the offence when he advanced up the right with Rio Grinell-Parke accompanying him on the left. Unfortunately Nähri unleashed an easy to save shot when a pass to his team mate might have been a better choice.
Moments Lawday went down on the ice after an accidental collision with one of his own players, requiring medical attention for a feared head injury. Luckily he was able to resume duties following treatment. Lightning were offered another powerplay chance as both Adam Taylor (hooking) and Howells (slashing) were consigned to the penalty box at the same time. But aside from a blue line blast from Leigh Jamieson the remaining shots with the extra men were off target. It was to cost MK a few minutes later when Danny Rose finished off a scrambled move also involving Taylor to make it 5-1 at 52mins 22secs.
There was no way back for the hosts despite a moment of excitement for the home fans as Harry Ferguson went toe to toe with Andy McKinney – both receiving four minutes for fighting. Grinell-Parke gave some respectability to the score from Kana’s set up at 58mins 54secs – MK on a powerplay – but it was too late to alter the result on a night when missed passes and predictable finishing cost the hosts.
Man of the match: Cale Tanaka.