Two Leeds Knights goals in 90 seconds turned the tide of a National League Autumn Cup game in which Milton Keynes Lightning were in with a chance of winning at Planet Ice on Saturday.
With less than nine minutes remaining, the encounter was evenly poised at two goals apiece. However, a penalty on Hallden Barnes-Garner for instigation of a fight, which followed an accidental collision between Adam Laishram and his Leeds marker, gave the visitors a powerplay from which they edged in front through Jordan Griffin on 51mins 19secs.
Former Lightning player Cole Shudra – son of ex-Sheffield Steelers defenceman, Ron Shudra – then registered a fourth for Knights at 52mins 49secs. The same player gave his team a 5-2 advantage on the powerplay after James Griffin was sin binned for cross-checking – Shudra finding space in which to pick his spot beyond goalie Brandon Stones at 56mins 32secs.
Back at full strength Lightning narrowed the gap almost immediately thanks to a Sean Norris assisted strike from Laishram at 56mins 47secs. However, any lingering hope of a last gasp comeback by MK was quashed when Brandon Whistle blasted home from the right hand side with 2mins 2secs to the buzzer to make it 6-3.
Lightning started the game brightly and were soon rewarded when Zaine McKenzie had the assist on Bobby Chamberlain’s opener after 2mins 39secs. The home side were the better outfit in the opening stages although they were unable to make anything of a couple of man advantages when Kieran Brown was penalised for a high stick and then picked up an extra two minutes for slashing when he and MK’s Callum Field were called for roughing.
Norris then went coast to coast but his finish was lacking, going wide of target before Lightning dealt with a Leeds powerplay well after Edgars Landsbergs was sent to the cooler for tripping.
The hosts increased their lead after 26mins 9secs when some determined offence saw Sam Talbot get the final touch after Knights’ goalie failed to deal with a Laishram effort.
It didn’t take the Yorkshire side long to claw back a goal as Whistle fired over Stones’ shoulder on 27mins 13secs – the netminder having replaced starting goalie Matt Smital at the start of the second period.
Five minutes later it was all square when Leeds took full advantage of Field’s slashing penalty to score through Brown from Whistle and Sam Zajac’s set up at 32mins 59secs. MK failed to capitalise on a Zajac hooking penalty in the 35th minute – a Russell Cowley shot over the bar being the best effort – as the middle session ended level at 2-2.
Lightning had a number of good efforts in the third period – Ed Knaggs winning possession in his half to go in on goalie Sam Gospel but the finish was poor while Lewis Christie’s shot went past the post before Sam Russell went behind the net only to find his way blocked.
In the end it was Barnes-Garner’s fight with Zajac that proved the key to Leeds taking the points as Griffin put the away team in front and on their way to a 6-3 victory.
Man of the match: Adam Laishram