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Resilient Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning saw off a second period Basingstoke Bison fightback to continue to edge up the National Ice Hockey League with a 5-3 victory at Planet Ice on Saturday delighting Lightning fans who saw their team record their sixth win in seven games.
The result lifted MK up into seventh spot in the league table above Bracknell Bees – and perhaps more importantly –within sight of a bunch of mid-table teams. That was despite Lightning playing with a short-bench – Tom Carlon, Sam Russell, Hallden Barnes-Garner and Lewis Christie all absent.
The 1368 crowd didn’t have to wait long to see Lightning open the scoring on the powerplay after Bison’s Adam Harding was penalised for slashing. Set up by Leigh Jamieson he blasted through goalie Alex Mettam’s five hole to put the home side in front on 7mins 30secs.
Jamieson then stopped Bison’s Czech forward Richard Bordowksi from putting an effective shot on goalie Dean Skinns before Harry Ferguson was penalised for roughing during a goalmouth scramble seconds later.
The Hampshire visitors couldn’t make the powerplay count – indeed it was Stewart who went close with a shot which went over the bar but Bison did equalise while at even strength with Michal Klejna the supplier for player coach Ashley Tait at 12mins exactly.
However parity only lasted 39 seconds as Robin Kovar found captain Russ Cowley to register from close range for the first of his brace of goals.
Lightning extended the gap to two on 15mins 7secs when a Stewart effort rebounded only for Kovar to snap up the puck and put it beyond Mettam.
MK dominated a late first period powerplay resulting from an elbows call on Klejna but they failed to produce an effective shot as the period ended 3-1 in the hosts’ favour.
That scoreline changed at the start of the second session. Despite being hit with a roughing penalty on Adam Jones within 34secs of the restart it was the visitors who scored – Tait returning the compliment for Klejna to net short-handed at 20mins 58secs.
Less than a minute later Klejna was sent to the cooler for roughing and a need-less 10 minute misconduct – firing the puck in anger after the initial call – giving Lewis Clifford’s men a 75 seconds of five on three powerplay which they were unable to capitalise from.
Bison levelled while with a man advantage thanks to a Jordan Stokes roughing penalty – again it was Tait on the mark, this time assisted by Harding and Jones at 31mins 11secs.
Once more though there was an almost immediate response from Lightning thanks to a Tomas Kana rebounding shot which Cowley was quick to seize on and put away at 31mins 57secs.
After a middle period in which Bison started to edge back into the game, only to see MK regain control, it was Lightning who looked more likely to score in the final session. Both Tanaka and Cowley went close while Jay King was serving time for tripping Grant McPherson.
Stewart, on target, and Tanaka, side netting, both had worthwhile efforts going into the final ten minutes ahead of Kovar firing wide before eventually McPherson’s fine cross ice pass was met by Stewart who used his speed to shake off his marker and beat Mettam one on one with 1min 40secs remaining to seal a 5-3 victory.
Man of the match: Dean Skinns.