A penalty shootout loss at Bees all but put Milton Keynes Lightning through to the Coventry playoff semi-finals weekend in a game marred by an injury to Sean Norris.
Norris was stretchered off the ice after taking a big hit in the dying seconds of overtime at Slough while the sides were tied at one apiece. With concerns about the well-being of the popular forward, it was perhaps not surprising that minds may not have been totally focussed on the shootout.
Despite that goalie Matt Smital went on to save all but one of the five penalty shots – Dominik Gabaj the only successful marksman for Bees in a 2-1 win. The point gained though took MK’s total to seven with two matches to play for the four teams in the group.
A win against Bees on Friday would mean Lightning going top of the group while their Berkshire rivals’ hopes hang in the balance, Telford beating Leeds Knights to take second spot with six points on Sunday.
Norris’ injury came as Bees thought they had won the game in the extra period when James Galazzi fired in with 41 seconds remaining, only to have the effort ruled out for a high stick.
Earlier Lightning secured the breakthrough goal midway through the middle period when Ed Knaggs began the move that ended with Tim Wallace supplying Mikey Power to score against his old club at 32mins 18secs.
There were few chances for either side in an even first period that saw Bees keeping out 11 shots while man of the match Smital turned away ten attempts.
The hosts saw off a two-minute tripping penalty on Will Stead in the first five minutes of the second session before having a powerplay of their own as Lewis Christie was called for holding. Again, the outcome was no goal.
Christie was back in the penalty box soon after Power’s opener but Bees were denied and the teams returned to the dressing rooms with MK leading 1-0.
Joe Baird spurned the chance of a dance with Bobby Chamberlain and that earned the MK player a four-minute penalty for elbows and roughing. While Lightning saw off the short-handed spell, they eventually conceded with 4mins 2secs of regulation time – Gabaj the provider for Will Stead shortly after Russell Cowley’s shot that could have sealed the points hit the post.
Overtime produced no winner so it was down the decisive penalty shots with Gabaj sending the home fans away happiest with a 2-1 win.
Man of the match: Matt Smital.