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It was Charity night at MK last night, with Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning and the Supporters’ Club raising money for the Milton Keynes Hospital Charity Cancer Centre Appeal.  At the end of the night, a cheque for £2,841.15 was presented on the ice to Charlotte Jelley, as well as Shirt of their Back winners Glyn Greene (for Skinns) and Sam Bill (for Clifford), Ollie’s Grid winner Stephen Day, and 50/50 winner Debbie Wilmott.  Thank you all for you support and to the Supporters’ Club for their tireless fundraising efforts as always!  With the rink bathed in green, it was onto the game itself.

Oh the agony and frustration! Smith Recycling Milton Lightning were just seconds away from a morale boosting win at Planet Ice on Saturday when Bracknell Bees snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  With less than a minute to go Lightning looked set to claim a second home win of the season – only to concede two goals in 19 seconds to lose 4-3 to Bees in a fractious game marred by numerous penalties, culminating in clashes involving Joshua Martin, Tomas Kana and Harry Ferguson.

Lightning’s Czech forward Kana was handed a game misconduct for roughing after landing a punch on the Bees protagonist while team-mate Ferguson received a match penalty for a punch at Martin from the bench. Martin was given a total of 22 minutes for incitement and diving.  Too add to the hosts’ woes they lost stand in captain James Griffin midway through the third period. Griffin had to that point been impressing on the top forward line with Kana and Cale Tanaka.

For the 6th game in a row, Lightning did not conceed a goal in the first period.  A pair of goals just over a minute apart saw the two sides tied at one apiece at the second interval with little indication of the drama to come.  The game finally exploded into life as Lightning struck twice to open up a 3-1 lead early in the final session. And it seemed that they were heading for a much needed victory until a Roman Malinik strike narrowed the gap to a single goal with less than eight minutes remaining.

Lightning survived a five on three penalty when Cale Tanaka, for hooking, and Ben Russell, for interference, were both in the box, but just ten seconds after Bees withdrew former MK back up goalie, Adam Goss, Malinik squared things up at 59mins 35secs.  Worse was to come as Bees sunk Lightning’s hopes with six seconds on the clock when their second import, Robin Kovar, set up Aidan Doughty, to beat goalie Brandon Stones.

With Jordan Lawday already sidelined through injury Lightning fans gave the returning Dean Skinns a big welcome as back-up netminder. And for a couple of minutes it looked as though he might be called upon to take over from Stones after he took a puck in the next and needed time to recover but Stones was fine to continue.  Lightning also missed Captain Russ Cowley.

The opening goal did not come until the 29mins 8secs mark while Bees were on a powerplay with Griffin given an extra two minutes for fighting – his opponent Zack Milton. Former MK junior Ed Knaggs was the provider for Kovar but it looked unlucky for Lightning as it seemed to deflect into the goal off a skate.  However the visitors’ joy was short-lived as Rio Grinell-Parke, supplied by Ari Närhi, broke away and fired over Goss for the leveller on 30mins 19secs, the puck appearing to take a strange bounce.  The delight was clear on Rio’s face and he’s having a great season so far.

There were no more goals in the middle session and it looked as though there would be precious few in the third. That theory was quickly disproved when Caly Robertson found a way through and with a bit of confusion around the Bees’ night managed to beat Goss for an unassisted strike at 42mins 43secs.  Caly showed great skill and determination to drive to the net and put it top shelf and it was great to see him getting into the action.

Buoyed by the goal MK tried to capitalise on the goal, Kana shooting from long range, only to see Goss stop the effort.  Despite a tripping penalty on Tanaka the home side were able to extend their lead while short-handed as Grinell-Parke supplied Kana for a shot which went over Goss’s arm to make it 3-1 at 45mins 36secs.  Stones brought off one good save from Malinik but could not stop the second effort moments later when he brought Bees to one goal of MK at 52mins 7secs.

A netminder interference penalty on Martin 57mins 6secs was the prelude for the last minute drama which saw Goss withdrawn in favour of the extra skater at 59mins 25secs with Malinik equalising ten seconds later and Doughty’s winner, before the big altercation.

Overall a performance with greater attacking energy, continued good performance on the PK with no powerplay goals conceded, and continuing the run of first period shut outs.  You get the sense that once momentum is created, this is a team who can put disappointments like this behind them.  It’s a rare thing to concede two in the final minute like that so the team will look to take the positives into their road trip to Raiders this afternoon.  Let’s Go Lightning!

Man of the match: Brandon Stones.

Photo: Tony Sargent