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Six second period goals – three of them in a blistering two minutes – put Hull Pirates to the sword as Smith Milton Keynes Lightning equalled their biggest winning margin in a 9-4 victory at Planet Ice on Saturday.
The win lifted Lightning up one place to sixth in the table – level on points with Sheffield Steeldogs, next weekend’s opposition, who slipped to seventh. Having beaten four of the top five clubs in recent weeks some will not only be tipping MK for a place in the final four play-off weekend at Coventry in April but for the team to go all the way and win it.
The only side they have not beaten since the beginning of December are second placed Swindon Wildcats – mainly because the two outfits have not met in that period!
Lightning had to overcome a 2-1 deficit in a particularly fractious first period in which Pirates seemed to be intent on settling a score with Cale Tanaka. James Archer, especially, seemed to be goading Tanaka almost from the start, aided by a number of his team-mates. It was to culminate later in the game.
There was a dramatic opening minute in which MK had a goal washed out after 35 seconds – the officials spotting an infringement known only to them – later reported as goaltender interference.
Hull failed to have a shot on goal in the first seven minutes but it was the Humberside side that scored first when player coach Jason Hewitt fired into the roof of the net on 13mins 17secs, prompting the first clash in which David Norris appeared to throw a punch at Tanaka. That went unpunished by the officials but when Grant McPherson waded in to defend his team-mate he picked up a roughing penalty, together with Archer and Hewitt.
The response from Lightning was swift with Tomas Kana supplying Harry Ferguson to register from close range on 15mins 20secs. But after Lewis Christie was called for holding at 18mins 9secs it took Pirates just nine seconds to score on the powerplay through a Hewitt assisted goal from Lee Bonner.
The visitors held their lead for only 35 seconds into the second period as Lightning capitalised on a roughing and misconduct penalty handed out to Archer one second before the first session buzzer – Tom Carlon equalising from captain Russ Cowley’s set up.
Once more Hull fought back after Ross Green was sin binned for holding in the 22nd minute – Bonner bagging his second on the powerplay at 23mins 57secs.
A defensive lapse allowed McPherson to steal in from the right hand side and round netminder, Ashley Smith, to put MK back on terms on 25mins 18secs. Then in a crazy 75 seconds Lightning effectively put the game beyond Pirates’ reach.
Great partnership saw Robin Kovar set up Liam Stewart who sped away to beat Smith after 25mins 32secs to make it 4-3 before Cowley made the pass for Tanaka to shoot on the turn on 26mins 33secs. That led to a time-out from Hull, anxious to steady the Pirates ship.
When former MK player Bobby Chamberlain was called for roughing at 33mins 17secs Lightning were quick to score as Leigh Jamieson and Kovar assisted on Ferguson’s second of the night 18secs later.
MK fans thought their heroes had increased the lead to 7-3 on 34mins 12secs – only to be disappointed when Stewart’s goal was ruled out for netminder interference. The ‘scorer’ was handed a two minute penalty after the goalie had to be helped off the ice to be replaced by back-up Steven Hudson.
A couple of minutes later Stewart was instrumental in sending Kana away for a one on one strike against Hudson while MK were short-handed following a high stick call on Christie – the goal at 36mins 38secs giving the hosts a four goal lead at the second break.
Right on the buzzer Hewitt was caught slashing allowing MK a two minute powerplay at the start of the third period during which they did not have a shot on goal. Instead it was the opponents’ Chamberlain who saw goalie Jordan Lawday deal with his attempt.
Lightning extended their lead after 46mins 55secs when Jamieson sent Kovar away to round the goalie before planting the puck in the net.
With the game well and truly won – and lost – it was time for some time for a little extra entertainment as things boiled over between Archer and Tanaka, each receiving four minutes for fighting.
Kana’s part in the game was ended in the 52nd minutes after he took exception to Sam Towner’s rough treatment of his team-mate, promptly earning a 12 minute penalty for roughing and misconduct.
A couple of minutes later Tom Stubley’s hooking on Cowley should have given Lightning the chance of a ninth goal but once again Pirates scored short-handed through Hewitt with MK caught on the offensive at 55mins 32secs.
Lightning did make it nine though when Stewart – as so often is the case, it seems, chose to set up a rousing finale. Winning the puck in his own defensive zone he accelerated up the ice to make the perfect pass for Kovar to score one on one at 58mins 57secs while MK had Christie in the box for hooking.
Man of the match: Harry Ferguson.
Photo: Tom Roberts