Captain Cowley led the way with a hat-trick as Milton Keynes Lightning opened the 2021-2022 campaign with a convincing 6-1 challenge match victory over long term rivals Peterborough Phantoms at Planet Ice on Saturday.

For most of the game there was only one team that looked likely to win with Phantoms’ goalie Jordan Marr facing a first period deluge of shots from Lightning’s new attacking strike force – the vast majority of whom had hardly had time to get to know each other.

Phantoms suffered two early penalties when Nathan Pollard had only just returned to the ice following a two minute tripping call before Jasper Foster went for hooking. Neither penalty proved expensive for Phantoms. However, Marr was caught out straight from a face off by Bobby Chamberlain – set up by Russ Cowley – to put MK in front on 11mins24secs.

Joe Gretton went toe to toe with Hallden Barnes-Garner  seconds later with both received 5 for fighting penalties before Chamberlain saw the penalty box door open for him for delaying the game. That didn’t stop the home side from adding to their total with debuting Sam Talbot hitting the back of the net short-handed at 15mins 15secs to make it 2-0.

Only seconds elapsed though before Phantoms reduced the arrears when former MK man Tom Norton struck from the blue line. MK survived a two minute call on Lewis Christie for hooking to end the first period a goal up.

Lightning remained unscathed when Sam Russell occupied the penalty box hot seat on a 26th minute cross checking call a few minutes before Cowley struck from Chamberlain and Edgars Landsbergs on 31mins 16secs. Phantoms hardly had time to recover before another MK newcomer Sean Norris found the net to make it 4-1 at 32mins 26secs.

A final second minute penalty for tripping on Norton allowed MK to go into the second break with an unassailable 5-1 lead – Cowley bagging his second on the powerplay from Landsbergs and Adam Laishram.

The third period saw a change of netminder for Peterborough as Ryan Bainbrough took over from Marr between the pipes. And he was able to prevent the home outfit from adding to their total until Cowley completed his trio of goals from Laishram and Chamberlain at 55mins 40secs.

Man of the match: Cowley

Attendance: 1405