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It was a tough evening for the Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lighting as they fell to their heaviest defeat of the season on Saturday night at the Link Centre in Swindon, losing out by a score of 7-0. Lightning came in to the game down 5 of their regulars, with Lewis Christie (personal reasons) joining James Griffin, Russ Cowley and Grant McPherson (Injury) and Harry Ferguson (Suspended) on the sidelines. Christie is expected to re-join the team on Sunday against Leeds Chiefs. Lightning’s numbers were bolstered by the return of Tom Carlon, who returned to MKL colours for the first time since the 2016-17 season and Logan Prince who joined on a full time basis from MK Thunder during the week.
The Wildcats entered Saturday’s contest on the back of 4 straight wins, with an unblemished home record in competitive play this season and, from the outset, it was clear to see why. Coach Clifford would have been at pains to highlight to his team the dangers of the Wildcats top 4 scorers who have combined for 69 points between them in 34 games so far this season but Lighting were powerless to stop Messrs Malasinski, Nell, Birbraer and Bebris as the foursome combined for 15 total points on the night with Birbraer and Nell picking up 5 each and Malasinski chipping in with 4.
The Wildcats opened the scoring just short of 9 minutes into the contest with Malasinski converting a Birbraer pass, a little under 10 minutes later it was 2-0 as Floyd Taylor knocked in a rebound after Lawday, returning from injury, made a fine save on a Sam Bullas shot, the Wildcats outshot the Lightning 14 to 8 in the first. In the 2nd period, Lightning started strongly with Robertson, Tanaka and Narhi all coming close, however, it was the Wildcats who would add to their lead. A well executed face-off play lead to Birbraer getting his first of the night and just over 4 minutes later, assisted by Malasinski he made it 4-0. This is how it stayed at the end of the 2nd, with Lightning outshooting the home side 14-13. Into the third and numbers started to become a factor, and when Ross Green was assessed a holding penalty just 2.10 into the 3rd, the home side would extend their lead through Bebris with Malasinski and Nell picking up assists. The power play was to strike again 7 minutes later, with Carlon in the box for slashing, player/coach Aaron Nell put one past Lawday. Birbraer completed his hat-trick, and the scoring for the night, on 52.32 when he converted a Sam Godfrey pass to put the Wildcats up 7-0. The Wildcats outshot the Lighting 15-3 in the final session.
The Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lighting Man of the Match was Sam Russell and Birbraer picked up the award for Swindon for his 3+2 evening.
We return home this evening (Sunday) for a 5.15pm face-off as we welcome back Radek Meidl and the Leeds Chiefs into Planet Ice. It is also a return for our announcer from the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, Ray Porter, who is back for one night only. Added to this we have our first skate with players event after the game and if you owned and loaned a charity jersey for the game against Bracknell they will be available for collection after the game, with players available for photos by the home bench shortly after the final buzzer. Tickets for the game will be on sale right up until puck drop, to avoid the queues, you can book online here right now.
Photo: Tony Sargent