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Two late penalties finally killed off Smith Milton Keynes Lightning’s challenge when they lost 6-4 at Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday after matching their opponents for most of the game.  Lightning were still in with a chance of taking something from the encounter when they lost the services of Jordan Stokes for tripping and then incurred a too many men on the ice penalty with less than two minutes remaining.

Having survived a five on three penalty only a few minutes earlier Lightning were unable to hold out this time as Nathan Salem killed off the clash with 21 seconds remaining on the five on three powerplay.  MK came agonisingly close to registering their first National Ice Hockey League victory but it was not to be – although it surely will not be a long time coming.

The game was just 4mins 11secs old when Tomas Kana was sin binned on a two plus 10 minute penalty for a check to the head and within seconds Steeldogs had made the most of the man advantage. It was Salem, assisted by Kieron Brown and Vladimir Luka, who got them off the mark at 4mins 36secs.  It was all square after 14mins 44secs thanks to a 13th minute penalty on Ashley Calvert who was caught high sticking Ari Närhi– a Leigh Jamieson blue line shot was easily dealt with by goalie Dimitri Zimozdra but he couldn’t do anything to keep out a second effort from the Milton Keynes born defenceman.

Jan Danecek saw two chances go begging after Brodie Jesson was penalised for holding the opponent’s stick before Salem set up Vladimir Luka to restore the home advantage on the powerplay at 17mins 41secs.  It was a further powerplay for Steeldogs that gave them the opportunity to edge 3-1 in front after 24mins 49secs through Calvert with an effort that seemed to strike Ben Russell before landing in the net – Harry Ferguson serving time for interference.

But when Craig Elliott was caught slashing in the 26th minute it was Lightning’s turn to make the opponents pay with Kana and Ferguson involved in Russ Cowley’s powerplay marker on 28mins 19secs.  MK couldn’t make a quick penalty on Cameron Brownley pay but they did draw level at 32mins 56secs thanks to Kana’s strike, assisted by Jamieson and Cowley.  Lightning’s delight didn’t last until the second break though due to Alex Graham’s shot over the diving Jordan Lawday 19 seconds from the interval.

The visitors recommenced battle in the third session determined to level again and although Cowley’s attempt to set up Cale Tanaka didn’t quite come off the MK captain had more success with his supply to Kana to make it 4-4 at 47mins 20secs.

Once more it was the hosts who edged in front after 51mins 11secs when Danecek made the supply for James Spurr.

Lightning were not out of the game yet but their chances were not helped with two swift penalties on Tanaka for holding and Ben Russell for holding the opponent’s stick. The five on three passed unscathed but MK couldn’t hold out when reduced by two skaters as the game went into the final three minutes.

Salem drove the final dagger into Lightning hearts with the sixth goal for Steeldogs at 59mins 39secs.

Man of the match: Russ Cowley.

Photo: Tony Sargent