Newly crowned National Ice Hockey League champions Telford Tigers were in no mood to let up as they capitalised on a poor Milton Keynes Lightning performance to record a convincing 7-2 win at Planet Ice on Saturday. 

Having been declared champions following the loss by nearest challengers Swindon Wildcats’ to Basingstoke Bison the previous evening, Telford could have relaxed. However, they didn’t and Lightning felt the sharp end of coach Tom Watkins’ team that boasts a good crop of promising young players.

Apart from the opening ten minutes or so of the middle period, there was little doubt about the result as Tigers controlled the game from start to finish. More worryingly with the play-offs looming, Lightning have hit a dip in form with just one win in five outings.

The hosts were given a taste of things to come when 18-year-old Bayley Harewood supplied Jack Watkins to fire past goalie Matt Smital after just 21 seconds on his side’s first attack.

The visitors almost doubled their score three minutes later when Leigh Jamieson was robbed in front of goal by Joe Aston but he was unable to finish. 

MK had a couple of attempts when they had a powerplay as Andy McKinney was penalised for tripping in the fifth minute – Bobby Chamberlain shooting straight into netminder Bad Day’s chest and James Griffin’s effort with one second left of the man advantage almost meeting the same fate.

Thomas McKinnon was handed a two-minute penalty for hooking in the 11th minute, giving MK another powerplay chance. Instead, it was the visitors that caught Lightning on the break, with Finley Howells supplying Aston to catch out Smital at 12mins 22secs for a short-handed marker.

The game seemed to be over when Tigers made the most of a 15th minute powerplay resulting from a slashing penalty on Adam Laishram – teenager Howells again involved when Vladimir Luka struck for goal number three at 16mins 15secs.

Following the break Lightning seemed to have a renewed spark at the start of the second session. Laishram produced a fine save from Day in the opening seconds before Tim Wallace’s pass from the right was smashed into the net by Sean Norris on 22mins 34secs.

Chamberlain was the supplier when Laishram cut the gap to one goal with a shot into the goal from the right at 24mins 44secs. Was this the start of a great Lightning fightback? Unfortunately not, despite attempts by Norris, Chamberlain and Wallace – the latter’s shot hitting the crossbar.

Having weathered the storm Telford resumed control when Luka found himself in space to pick his spot beyond Smital on 32mins 43secs. Sam Watkins, nephew of team-mate, Jack, tested Smital with a fierce shot in the 34th minute ahead of Norris seeing his attempt blocked.

Powerplay number three for Lightning arrived when Corey Goodison was sin binned for a high stick on Chamberlain at 35mins 59secs. However, the result was the same – despite pressure on goal there were no scoring chances.

Trailing by two goals to any team but Telford going into the start of the third period Lightning may have been able to overhaul the tally. However, Tigers were in no mind to let up, adding three more goals.

Andy McKinney was given space to make it 5-2 on 47mins 58secs – Goodison and Howells credited with the set up – The scorer then repaying the compliment by being provider for Howells to extend the lead to four goals on 50mins 39secs.

After Mikey Power was penalised for slashing Goodison got in on the scoring act with a powerplay goal at 57mins 9secs to complete a successful night for the title winners – MK coach Lewis Clifford wondering what went wrong.

Man of the match: Leigh Jamieson.