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A big win and £5,347 raised for the Royal British Legion

One player doesn’t make a team – but he doesn’t half make a difference in instilling a new found confidence so obviously missing in recent weeks.  Liam Stewart’s long awaited debut for Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning could hardly have gone better with a two-goals plus man of the match performance inspiring the team to their biggest win of the season – a 7-2 victory over Bracknell Bees at Planet Ice on Saturday.  Stewart, whose arrival on these shores was delayed by his contractual obligations in the New Zealand Hockey League, registered a goal in the second and third periods and, just as importantly unlocked the hesitancy which had, thus far, cost Lightning games in previous weeks.

Lightning were playing in their special Remembrance jerseys and before the match there was a ceremony of remembrance including a playing of the Last Post by Kevin Dare, Bandmaster of the Milton Keynes Corps of the Salvation Army followed by an impeccably observed 2 minutes silence.  Finally, the National Anthem was sung live by Thao Nguyen who is a mezzo-soprano singer, a serving Officer in the Armed Forces and a practicing General Practitioner in Milton Keynes.  Thank you all for helping us commemorate all our Armed Forces personnel, past, present and future.

Onto the game, and it was Robin Kovar who put Bees in front on 4mins 54secs with a shot from the slot which eluded stand-in netminder Dean Skinns. From then on though there was little that went right for a Bracknell team that had broken home fans’ hearts with a game winning goal six seconds from time a few weeks ago.

It fell to Hallden Barnes-Garner to register his very first goal in an MK Lightning shirt putting the hosts back on terms following an early Bees strike with a powerplay marker from close range on 16mins 47secs – Harry Ferguson the provider while Joe Baird was serving time for a check from behind on captain Leigh Jamieson.

From then on it was the home side that increasingly made all the running.

When Stuart Mogg went for hooking with less than two minutes of the middle period gone Lightning took full advantage as Ari Närhi supplied Harry Ferguson on the left hand side of goal to poke the puck home at 22mins 25secs.

Bees could make no impression on the powerplay they received when Cale Tanaka was sin binned for holding – the best they could manage probably being Ed Knaggs blue line shot confidently blocked by Skinns who is surely too good to discard once MK’s two regular goalies are back in action.

It was to cost Bees dearly moments later as Stewart, supplied by Tomas Kana, broke away at pace and unleashed a shot which goalie Adam Goss appeared to have saved but instead the puck seemed to go in off the back of him at 26mins 18secs to make it 3-1.  Things got even better before the second period break – an especially so far as youngster Logan Prince was concerned – when he registered his debut goal for Lightning on 33mins 42secs having not had a shift before – again Ferguson gained the assist.

With a three goal advantage going into the third period home fans were dreaming of a long awaited convincing win. But they would not have been confident knowing that MK had previously lost games from a similar position previously this year.  However any doubts were obviously not transferred to the team because within five minutes of the start of the final session Stewart grabbed his second with an unassisted goal which showed his skill as he rounded Goss to slot home on 44mins 2secs.

At that point it was game over for Bees – but not for MK as they went on to add two more goals in the final eight minutes with Leigh Jamieson – playing on the second forward line instead of Sam Russell who moved back to replace him in defence – having his shot blocked only for Närhi to snap up the rebound for the sixth goal after 52mins 13secs

With less than three minutes left Kana set up defenceman Ross Green to score his first goal for Lightning for five years – a fantastic shot from distance to the left of Goss at 57mins 20secs.  Bees then scored a second goal which was nothing more than a consolation as their man of the match, Brendan Baird, made it 7-2 after 58mins 22secs.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer but on this performance spring could be on the way, somewhat belatedly, for Lightning and their loyal fans.  A great team performance and thoroughly deserved victory which takes MKL off the bottom of the table.

After the match, a cheque presentation was made to the Royal British Legion for all the profits of the Remembrance Own & Loan, replica shirt sales and matchnight fundraising.  Overall an incredible £5,347 was raised.  Thank you all for your amazing and generous support.

Next up at home, it’s Raiders who MKL has played once this year and come away with the win.  Tickets available here.

Man of the match: Liam Stewart.

Photo: Tony Sargent