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Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning just came up short despite a third period fightback with two goals inside the last seven minutes as they lost 4-2 to Peterborough Phantoms at Planet Ice on Saturday.  It was an energetic and disciplined performance from the home side who are clearly benefitting from the return of McPherson and Captain Russ Cowley, who upped the spirit within the team and gave the well organised visitors a good fight.  An outstanding performance from Marr in the Peterborough net kept MK at bay at crucial moments of the game.

After a scoreless first period Phantoms broke the deadlock just 53 seconds into the middle session when top scorer Petr Stepanek finally beat Dean Skinns.  Lightning produced some good chances early on when Cale Tanaka was thwarted by netminder Jordan Marr and then Liam Stewart, in space, saw his effort pushed away by Marr, using his shoulder.

Närhi had two great opportunities but failed to convert either – the first one was saved and then the second one failed to find the target before Callum Buglass tested Skinns with a slapshot.  When Lewis Christie was sin binned for interference on 11mins 2secs Peterborough had the puck in the net but the effort was washed out for high-sticking and MK survived the short-handed spell.

Skinns was able to deal with a Buglass blue line attempt before Griffin went up the right wing and forced a good saved from Marr.  After Phantoms’ opening goal Lightning tried to level things up with a well worked move that came to nothing and the visitors responded with a good effort from James Ferrara.

Jordan Stokes was penalised for slashing Connor Pollard on 25mins 54secs with Susters producing the best chances for the Cambridgeshire outfit as MK saw off the short-handed two minutes.  Cowley tried to set up Närhi who had two chances, both saved by Marr, shortly before Phantoms extended their lead through their top scoring Brit, James Ferrara – Ales Padelek providing the assist at 32mins 37secs.

It was not long after that McPherson and Stepanek clashed – both assessed four minutes for roughing and there were further penalties to come five seconds from the break when Närhi drew a penalty on Tom Norton who took exception. Tom Carlon became involved with both Toms receiving two minutes for roughing and the Phantoms man an extra two minutes for slashing.  It looked to be game over when Phantoms added a third goal on the powerplay at 46mins 52secs while Griffin was sitting out a slashing call. Stepanek was the scorer with a slapshot that Skinns will have regretted failing to block.

A hooking penalty on James Ferrara followed by a tripping call on Robbie Ferrara ignited MK’s hopes with Carlon and Cowley going close.  From then on it was Lightning applying the pressure, with strong forward pressure looking to convert.  Eventually Närhi found the net to make it 3 – 1 and the crowd sensed some hope.  The hope became higher when Griffin powered down the right hand side and slid it into the centre for Kana to slot home.  A one goal hockey game with 6 mins to so.

Lightning continued to press through Cowley and a bundle around the net, but man-of-the-match Marr held strong.  It was do or die for Lighting who pressed further up the ice, and whilst Cowley took a penalty in his desparation to move the play up the ice, Susters put the game to bed with a late fourth goal for Phantoms.

Overall, an entertaining game played at high pace, and a competitive encounter acknowledged by both coaches after the game.  Lightning showing a lot more promise with the return of key players which bodes well for upcoming fixtures.

Man of the match: Rio Grinell-Parke.

Photo: Tony Sargent