A phenomenal performance by netminder Sam Gospel, together with some unimaginative finishing, combined to send Milton Keynes Lightning to a 4-2 defeat against a tough Leeds Knights team at Planet Ice on Saturday.

The Knights stopper turned away all but a brace of the 32 shots fired on him but while many a netminder would have succumbed, Gospel was hardly troubled by many of them.

Despite that Lightning were still in with a chance until the final minute when goalie Matt Smital raced out of his goal to try to halt the approaching Kieran Brown on a break away with the home defence caught out on the offensive. It proved an unwise move as Brown won the challenge and was able to put the puck into what was, in effect, an empty net with 45 seconds remaining to make it 4-2.

That put an end to any hope MK had of withdrawing Smital in favour of an extra skater in a bid to find a last gasp equaliser.

The night had started so well for the hosts who scored after just 1min 45secs when Sean Norris shot in from the left side of goal after being set up by Bobby Chamberlain and Lewis Christie.

Lightning had the best of the first ten minutes of play with Tim Wallace surprising Gospel in the third minute with a shot that the goalie stopped with a leg while in the ninth minute a Chamberlain effort rebounded to Norris who was unable to finish. Hallden Barnes Garner tried his luck in a battle with Gospel a minute later – again without success.

The home sided failed to make anything of an 11th minute powerplay resulting from Harry Gulliver’s tripping of Liam Stewart. Having seen that off, Leeds started to change the balance of play with Smital making a great stop from Brown before Archie Hazeldine saw his bid sticked away by the goalie.

Leeds stepped up their game further at the start of the second period with Brandon Whistle testing Smital in the first minute although Barnes Garner, Wallace and Stewart all had attempts stopped.

It was a 25th minute incident that seemed to really turn the balance of play – Gulliver was penalised for hooking before Lewis Christie dropped the gloves to engage with Ethan Hehir in a rare fight for the MK player. Both received five minutes in the penalty box for their efforts with Christie earning an extra two for instigation.

While both were still in their respective sin bins, Leeds’ offensive pressure paid off with Hazeldine supplying Adam Barnes for the equaliser on 30mins 2secs. The 1-1 score remained until the second buzzer, only for the visitors to edge ahead within 2mins 38secs of the start of the final session.

The go ahead goal came when Smital was beaten by a high shot by Cole Shudra – the set up coming from Harry Gulliver. Sam Talbot sought, unsuccessfully, to level the tallies within the following minute before Stewart saw his blast blocked by Shudra.

MK’s task became even greater when Leigh Jamieson was caught hooking on 49mins 22secs. From the resulting powerplay a rocket shot from Brown put daylight between the two teams at 51mins 5secs.

However Lightning were not down and out – Norris responded with a super finish high into the net on 53mins 48secs to give the home side a chance of a fightback. However it all came to nothing, thanks to Brown’s last minute fourth goal for the visitors.

Man of the match: Sean Norris.