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League topping Telford Tigers dealt a blow to Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning’s hopes of rising up the National Ice Hockey League at Planet Ice on Saturday.
After matching, if not dominating, Tigers for two periods Lightning eventually succumbed to the Shropshire visitors’ better organised powerplay units to end up on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline in a game which marked the debut of new signing Taylor Dickin who had only flown into the country hours earlier.
The turning point was probably Lightning’s inability to capitalise on a five on three penalty when Tigers’ captain Jason Silverthorn followed team mate Dominik Florian to the sin bin in the 33rd minute for a face off violation – the Czech going for cross checking.
From then on Tigers’ confidence grew and when Cale Tanaka was called for slashing in the final minute of the second session Tom Watkins’ outfit successfully worked out a strategy to break Lightning’s resolve as within 46 seconds of the restart Jack Watkins played the puck back to Silverthorn to beat goalie Dean Skinns.
That gave Tigers the lead for the first time after the two sides had finished the middle session all square at one apiece. From then on the visitors had the upper hand and when they had a four on three powerplay Brandon Whistle blasted home from the blue line – the netminder having no chance at 45mins 42secs.
Worse was to come less than a minute later when Andy McKinney set up Tigers’ leading scoring Scott McKenzie to make it 4-1 to the travellers and a couple of minutes later Skinns was forced to make a fine glove save from Jack Watkins.
The goalie could do little though when Lightning were exposed at the back by a quick Tigers break which saw Whistle in space on the right of goal. His cross net pass found McKinney and he had a fairly easy chance of planting the puck in the goal for his team’s fifth goal at 55mins 58secs.
There was a brief moment of celebration for home fans shortly after when MK finally made the most of a powerplay after Ross Kennedy was sin binned for hooking on 56mins 30secs. Within 18 seconds Tomas Kana pounced after goalie Bradley Day was able to block not hold a Liam Stewart shot from the blue line to make it 5-2.
It was a disappointing end to an encounter in which Lightning took the lead after Tom Carlon broke up the left an d crossed for Grant McPherson to turn in the puck on 9mins 3secs. By that stage both combatants had already enjoyed an even number of chances with Stewart testing the opposition goalie first followed by McKenzie who also had his shot saved.
A tripping penalty on McPherson in the 13th minute allowed Tigers to level the tallies as Florian’s shot found its way through the screen in front of Skinns at 14mins 25secs. That was the final goal for the following 26 minutes – the second session producing more shots for Lightning but no further score for either side.
Man of the match: Jordan Stokes.