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Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning came within a whisker of achieving a shock result against Hull Pirates at Planet Ice on Saturday – eventually losing by the odd goal in nine.  Had it not been for a poor start which saw the visitors take a three goal lead in the first nine minutes Lightning may have run out winners in their first National Ice Hockey League outing against last year’s play off winners. Instead they were left on the wrong end of a 5-4 scoreline.

It was a fight between Grant McPherson and Pirates’ Jordan Fisher straight after the third opposition goal that seemed to stem the travellers’ goal scoring. Unfortunately McPherson was injured in the clash and took no further part in the game.  By the third period it was Pirates who were on the defensive – Lightning outshooting them 12-7 as they tried desperately to find the goals to at least level things up in regulation time.

In the end they fell a goal short having conceded to Pirates just 2mins 15secs into the encounter when goalie Jordan Lawday was unable to clear the puck from a Peter Fabus shot, Lee Bonner there to follow up.  Lee Haywood then set up Bobby Chamberlain to make it 2-0 just over a minute later at 3mins 28secs before the first penalty of the game – a two minutes roughing call on Bonner giving the home team a powerplay which they were unable to capitalise on.

Having survived the short-handed spell Pirates took their tally to three with Bonner feeding Fabus to register at 8mins 42secs. Seconds later came the McPherson-Fisher clash and although Pirates were still in the ascendancy they only managed one further first period goal – thanks to Fabus again at 14mins 5secs, this time aided by Sam Towner and Kevin Phillips.

By then Lightning had already pulled a goal back with the impressive Ari Närhi scoring a solo goal out of nothing – winning the puck and going through almost unchallenged.  Within 25 seconds of the second period restart MK cut the gap to two goals when Tomas Kana supplied defenceman James Griffin to beat netminder Ashley Smith.

There was no joy though for Lightning on the powerplay after Josh Gent was called for slashing a couple of minutes later.

And despite Lightning’s lines improving as the game went on it was Pirates who were on the scoresheet next at 28mins 45secs with player coach Jason Hewitt’s effort eluding Lawday to make it 5-2.  At that stage it looked as though the visitors were in for another comfortable victory even if MKL were beginning to click. Soon after the home side’s fight was rewarded when Cale Tanaka set up Kana to reduce the deficit to two again at 30mins 33secs.

Stern words of encouragement were obviously spoken to Lightning’s squad at the second break as the third period saw them dominating long periods of the game. Within seconds of the restart Russell Cowley’s shot went just wide of target and reward did not come until 49mins 32secs – Jordan Stokes assisting as Tanaka fired past Smith.

By then Lightning had been handed three unsuccessful powerplays with Matty Davies, Hewitt and Davies again all visiting the sin bin in quick succession.

Lightning’s rhythm was upset slightly in the 52nd minute as Rio Grinell-Parke was handed a cross-checking penalty while MK had a man advantage three minutes later with Hewitt going for cross-checking.

Despite a timeout with less than 30 seconds to go MK were unable to find the all important game tying goal.

Man of the match: Cale Tanaka sponsored by A2B Airport Transfers

Photo: Tony Sargent