An uncharacteristically poor opening 15 minutes cost Milton Keynes Lightning the chance of victory against Sheffield Steeldogs and, with it, their nine match points run at Planet Ice on Saturday.
Steeldogs bagged three goals in the first seven minutes and added a fourth before the quarter of an hour was up, leaving Lightning fans hardly able to believe what they were seeing. Although MK were able to recover to take the score to 4-2 by the 28th minute they could not recover further and Steeldogs capped their win with an empty net goal with 35 seconds remaining.
A speculative shot from Thomas Palmer caught out goalie Matt Smital after just 2mins 20secs – the strike was unassisted. Tyler Nixon was dispossessed by Sam Towner, who supplied Lee Bonner to fire in number two at 4mins 45secs.
Things became even worse on 6mins 54secs when the free scoring Jason Hewitt made it 3-0 – Bonner and Towner both involved in the build-up. That spelled the end of Smital’s part in the game as he skated to the bench to be replaced by Brandon Stones.
At this stage Lightning were having little luck finding their way to anywhere near the Sheffield goal, such was Steeldogs’ solid defence although Leigh Jamieson had two good efforts blocked.
Adam Laishram and Liam Stewart tried unsuccessfully to set up Russell Cowley seconds before Bonner made it 4-0 at 14mins 57secs. Once again Towner had the first assist with the experienced Lee Haywood starting the move.
Sixty-seven seconds from the break Mikey Power got his marching orders on a match penalty after a check to the head and a fighting call at the same time. Almost immediately there was also a bench clearance after words were exchanged between the two teams at the side of the ice.
The result of that saw Bobby Chamberlain given a five minute penalty for fighting while Steeldogs’ goalie Dimitri Zimozdra was assessed seven minutes for an identical offence.
With three seconds to the first buzzer MK finally gave the home fans something to cheer about when Sean Norris took Cowley’s long pass to unleash a blast that gave Zimozdra no chance.
Lightning started the middle session defending a five on four penalty. Having survived that they started to press and were eventually rewarded with a second goal after 27mins 23secs. Chamberlain made the pass for Sam Talbot to fire top right of Zimozdra.
The hosts were now back in the game and in the 34th minute Talbot supplied Chamberlain for a shot that hit the goalie’s helmet, ahead of a Cowley effort that rebounded off the netminder.
Zimozdra stopped a further Talbot attempt before the period ended with Charlie Thompson having his shot saved by Stones and Lewis Christie going down to block a Hewitt drive.
It was more of the same from Lightning in the third period with Laishram (twice), Callum Field and Jamieson all denied by Zimozdra while Steeldogs’ best efforts came from Bonner on two occasions.
Try as they might Lightning could not find a way past Zimozdra again and in a last throw of the dice coach Lewis Clifford called a timeout with 1min 54secs to go – Stones immediately being withdraw in favour of the extra skater.
The gamble soon failed when Steeldogs found a way out of their zone as Hewitt threaded a pass to Towner in neutral ice for an easy shot into the empty net at 59mins 25secs to make it 5-2.
Man of the match: Brandon Stones.