Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning may have gone down to their second narrow loss of the weekend to Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday but coach Lewis Clifford will have seen plenty of positives from the feisty challenge encounter, writes Paul Brookman.
While at least 10 of the Steeldogs team were on last year’s roster MK had just two returnees plus less than handful that had played on the same team together.
Last year’s National Ice Hockey League play-off semi-finalists Steeldogs will be buoyed by the 4-3 result at IceSheffield as the new season approaches.
Lightning – with Brandon Stones in goal against his former club – got off to a fine start when Brodie Jesson set up Harry Ferguson to score after 2mins 13secs and it didn’t take long before a major altercation which ended up with four Steeldogs and five MK players each handed two minute penalties. That gave the home side a man advantage from which they levelled the tallies up as new import Vladimir Luka supplied Kieron Brown to beat Stones at 7mins 14secs.
The visitors could make nothing of ninth minute penalty on long-serving Steeldogs’ man Lewis Bell for a late hit and it was the home side who went in front thanks to another new import, Jan Danecek, on 12mins 23secs – the supply coming from Ashley Calvert. The gap was stretched to two after 14mins 36secs when Danecek returned the compliment for scorer Calvert while Ben Morgan’s outfit were short-handed with Alex Graham serving time for tripping.
There was a quick response from Lightning however as Cale Tanaka and Russ Cowley had a hand in Grant McPherson’s goal at 15mins 15secs. Trailing 3-2 at the first break Lightning found themselves a man short within 1min 42secs of the restart – McPherson consigned to the sin bin for hooking. But no goals resulted.
It was McPherson involved during a mid-period bust up also involving Steeldogs’ Graham and Charles Thompson – the MK man receiving a total of 14 mins for roughing. Despite all that no further scores ensued before the next break and indeed it was not until 49mins 39secs that Callum Robertson and Cowley were involved in the build up to Tomas Kana’s strike to make it 3-3.
A series of penalties on MK players – Tanaka (twice) and James Griffin – eventually saw Sheffield register the decisive winning goal after 54mins 16secs with a powerplay effort from Bell, assisted by Cameron Brownley and Tim Smith.
Man of the match: Rio Grinell-Parke.