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Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning were brought down to earth with a crash by Raiders after the highs of the previous weekend as they went down 6-2.
Lightning welcomed defenceman James Griffin back to the side after injury and, together with the mid-week announcement that both Tom Carlon and Lewis Christie had agreed to stay for the remainder of the season, the team was able to ice a strong line up. But once again Lightning’s cause was not helped by falling into penalty trouble with two key players off the ice for a total of 24 minutes – Liam Stewart and Tomas Kana both serving 12 minutes for boarding.
During Stewart’s penalty Raiders scored two goals at a time when MK could have had a chance of turning the game around having gone a goal behind when Lukas Sladkovsky was given far too much space to pick his spot at 14mins 59secs.
Kana’s penalty at exactly 35 minutes had an instant result – for all the wrong reasons with Raiders’ top scorer Jake Sylvester bagging his second of the night on the powerplay at 36mins 42secs to make it 5-0. By the time Kana was truly back into the action the Essex based visitors had sealed the result with a sixth goal – Blahoslav Novak getting in on the scoring act with a powerplay strike at 47mins 26secs.
So what went wrong after the promise of the previous week? Raiders were so obviously nervous of being on the wrong end of a big score that they planted three players across the back line from the start. That made it hard for MK to break through and when they did the shots were not good enough to beat goalie Michael Gray.
In the opening minutes an Erik Piatak shot was easily dealt with by netminder Dean Skinns ahead of Harry Ferguson seeing his effort taken with Gray’s glove. Raiders’ Aaron Connolly was then denied by Skinns before Rio Grinell-Parke broke up the left only to see his attempt blocked by the keeper.
When Mason Webster was called for elbows in the eight minute MK failed to produce anything to test the goalie, but back at even strength Gray had to be at his best when his net was peppered with shots in no more than a 30 second burst. Raiders’ obvious defensive tactics relying on the break paid off with Sladkovsky’s fine shot past Skinns.
Lightning started the second period the more lively of the teams with Carlon going round the net to try and set up Cale Tanaka without success. Kana then beat his marker but failed to defeat Gray. The visitors doubled their lead on 24mins 41secs when Sean Barry fed Piatak who again was afforded too much space to fire home. Moments before Stewart’s penalty expired Raiders added a third – Piatak again not closed down as Barry was again the supplier on 27mins 12secs.
Stewart’s return did not stop Raiders’ flow as Sylvester made it 4-0 at 30mins 11secs before taking advantage of the 12 minute penalty on Kana to register with a powerplay blast high into the goal on 36mins 42secs. The goal came after Stewart had broken away on the penalty kill but could not beat Gray.
JJ Pitchley, whose dad Ben, played for the old Romford Raiders outfit over a 17 year period, was then penalised for a high stick but MK hardly looked like scoring on the powerplay. Griffin attempted to supply Grinell-Parke but the youngster didn’t connect while the latter’s effort went wide on the man advantage.Sean Easton’s side did better when they were given a powerplay as a result of a hooking penalty for Leigh Jamieson – banging in their sixth goal, thanks to Novak at 47mins 26secs.
Lightning, belatedly, ensured they were not going to be shut out when Stewart redirected a Kana pass beyond Gray on the powerplay at 50mins 23secs – Aaron Connolly serving time for slashing.
There were less than two minutes to the buzzer when MK man of the match Ari Närhi, almost on his knees, still managed to blast Sam Russell’s pass high into the goal at 58mins 5secs. The goal though was too late to alter the result of a game when MK largely failed to be incisive enough around the opposition net – Gray not seriously tested sufficiently and surprisingly being awarded his team’s man of the match when there were other more worthy recipients such as Sylvester, Piatak or Barry.
Man of the match: Ari Närhi.
Photo: Tony Sargent