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Smith Recycling MK Lightning 7, Leeds Chiefs 4

Rio Grinell-Parke bagged a hat-trick on a night of celebrations for Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning at Planet Ice on Saturday when the team confirmed their place in the end of season play-offs with a comfortable 7-4 win over Leeds Chiefs.

Before the face-off the club honoured Leigh Jamieson, who had made his 500th appearance for the club the previous weekend, with a presentation to him and his family by Lightning chief executive officer Claire Eason-Bassett – former team coach Nick Poole joining the ceremony. It was Poole who gave Jamieson his Lightning debut when he signed for the team in their inaugural English Premier League season – Jaimo having made a handful of appearances for the former MK Kings side.

And Poole was able to witness his old side get off to a superb start against anchor team, Chiefs, going 3-0 ahead in the first ten minutes and then extending the lead to five without reply before, perhaps, easing off a little after the half way mark with Leeds scoring twice in three minutes towards the latter end of the second session.

Lightning stepped up a gear again at the start of the third period to restore the five goal gap before Chiefs grabbed two late goals to give the score some respectability as far as Sam Zajac’s team were concerned.

It took MK just 4mins 26secs to open their tally when James Griffin registered four seconds from the end of a powerplay resulting from a roughing call on Bobby Streetly – Taylor Dickin and Sam Russell involved in the set up.

Less than two minutes later the ever improving Grinell-Parke got the final touch to a pass from Liam Stewart to make it 2-0 at 6mins 23secs before Leeds’ first real chance came from Connor Henderson – the weak finish no test for goalie Jordan Lawday.

There was some hesitation from the officials in awarding Lightning’s third goal at 9mins 57secs – Tomas Kana supplying Russell Cowley for a strike which was judged to have crossed the line a split second before netminder Sam Gospel accidentally knocked the net off its moorings.

Chiefs were given a powerplay opportunity when Harry Ferguson was sidelined for roughing but although Lawday blocked a Richard Bentham blue line effort and the puck bobbled about in front of goal, no one could put the final touch and danger was averted.

Leeds had a couple of other chances – Steven Moore trying his luck before the powerplay ended and Luke Boothroyd from the edge of the left circle – but MK’s goal remained intact at the first break.

Bentham’s trip on Dickin proved costly for Leeds within the first three minutes of the second period. On the powerplay Tom Carlon made an incisive pass from behind the net to Stewart who let rip with a first time blast beyond Gospel to increase the lead to 4-0.

Grinell-Parke soon had two good chances in succession, the first when he created space for himself but was unable to finish and the second when he shot past the post before Patrick Valcak had an effort stopped by Lawday.

Goal number five was the result of a great piece of team-work – Stewart breaking from defence to feed Dickin who then supplied Grinell-Parke to score at 28mins 30secs.

Chiefs eventually got on the scoresheet with a Lewis Houston strike on 32mins 7secs while his team had a man advantage after Lightning were caught with too many players on the ice. They quickly followed up with a second goal at 35mins 11secs through Adam Barnes when Lightning’s defence was caught napping.

The five goal lead was regained early in the third as Harry Ferguson’s hard work in front of goal was rewarded on 46mins 17secs before MK, seeking to build on that marker, saw Cowley and Griffin both having efforts blocked by the netminder.

Stewart fed Dickin for a shot which was stopped by Gospel before, seconds later, a Stewart rocket was blocked but not held by the goalie only for Grinell-Parke to follow up and put the puck away at 49mins 26secs.

Once more MK seemed to relax a little with victory almost certain, allowing Chiefs to take their tally to three thanks to Houston at 53mins 57secs ahead of Lewis Baldwin firing in a shot which Lawday possibly didn’t see until it was too late at 57mins 59secs to make it 7-4.

Man of the match: Rio Grinell-Parke.

Photo credit: Tony Sargent, Milton Keynes Lightning