Milton Keynes Lightning suffered the heartbreak of a 5-4 penalty shoot-out loss after staging a dramatic comeback against National Ice Hockey League leaders Telford Tigers on Saturday.
Lightning look dead and buried after Tigers took a two goal lead in the first period with Lightning unable to get close enough to the Telford goal to have any meaningful shots on netminder Bad Day.
But, to their credit, it was a different Lightning side that took the ice in the second session. They upped the gas and by the next intermission they were on terms with the visitors, thanks to an incredible strike by Adam Laishram a microsecond before the buzzer sounded. What was more amazing was that Sam Talbot was credited with the assist on the goal – he was sitting out a high stick call on the penalty bench at the time!
The game was 4mns 16secs old when Lightning were awarded a powerplay after Thomas McKinnon was called for tripping Talbot on a breakaway. However, it was Tigers who opened the scoring when Corey Goodison fed Austin Mitchell-King who went solo to beat goalie Matt Smital at 4mins 49secs for a short-handed goal.
With the extra man Lightning hardly managed a shot on goal and back at even strength Smital did well to block a seventh minute attempt from Vladimir Luka before Sean Norris tried to set up Liam Stewart in front of goal – unfortunately he failed to make contact.
A couple of minutes later Luka doubled Tigers advantage with a rocket that gave Smital little chance at 10mins 43secs. From then on MK were increasingly forced to shoot from long range before the break while Smital denied both Finley Howells and Luka ahead of Talbot firing wide from mid-range and a Laishram effort from about the same distance that went up and over the goal.
Lightning survived some early Tigers pressure in the middle session while Norris was twice unsuccessful in beating Day before he was sin binned for a high stick on Jake Price. A Jonathan Weaver shot rebounded before Scott McKenzie was foiled by Smital.
Two simultaneous penalties on Joe Aston and Jack Hopkins for tripping and hooking respectively proved to be a turning point for Lightning. The five on three advantage gave them the opening to reduce the arrears through a fine upstairs shot by Tim Wallace at 25mins 15secs.
The hosts saw off a slashing penalty on Bobby Chamberlain but could do little when they were on the wrong end of a five on three situation – Wallace and Lewis Christie both in the sin bin for slashing. Telford restored their two goal lead when Jason Silverthorn beat Smital from the left hand side at 34mins 14secs.
Back on the ice Chamberlain once again cut the gap with a delayed penalty goal firing to the left of the goalie at 36mins 41secs. However, it was Laishram’s strike from the right that levelled the tallies a smidgen before the buzzer that had Tigers’ players questioning the goal.
If the pace stepped up a gear in the second period then it entered an even higher one in the third period. Silverthorn bagged his second from a narrow angle on 47mins 12secs while the visitors were on a powerplay with Hallden Barnes-Garner in the box for tripping.
There was no surrender from Lightning as they returned to full strength and they gained their reward after Howells was given two minutes in the cooler – Wallace registering six seconds from the end of the powerplay on 56mins 49secs.
That was enough to send the encounter into an extra period that had Lightning fans celebrating prematurely when the goal judge’s light went on as Leigh Jamieson looked as though he had scored. No goal was awarded.
The five minutes extra time failed to separate the two sides so it was down to penalty shots. MK started perfectly with both Stewart and Wallace scoring but they failed with the remaining three efforts – Telford unsuccessful twice before registering with the next three shots.
It was a disappointing end to a thrilling game in front of a noisy crowd.
Man of the match: Tim Wallace