A spectacular fightback in which Milton Keynes Lightning came from being a goal behind at the end of the second period to win 3-2 at Leeds Knights, completed the best possible opening weekend to their Play-Off Group campaign on Sunday.
With Bees losing twice to league champions Telford Tigers, the favourites to go through to the Coventry weekend semi-finals will now be Tigers and Lightning. It may be a case of ‘it ain’t over until the fat lady sings’ but on league form – and that can count for nothing post season – MK will be confident of taking maximum points from Bees who failed to beat them during the regular season.
Lightning struck twice in less than two third session minutes to turn the game at Elland Road on its head. Having reverted to the potent line of Bobby Chamberlain, Sam Talbot and Sean Norris for the play-offs it was this combination that squared the encounter with 44mins 34secs gone. Chamberlain, having gone close a couple of times, was the scorer from 10 yards out.
On 46mins 29secs Norris found space down the boards and he fed Talbot at the back post to put the puck in the back of the net to make it 3-2.
Earlier Knights had seized the initiative when Lewis Baldwin set up the impressive Cole Shudra to beat goalie Matt Smital at 8mins 45secs – James Griffin having had the first serious chance for Lightning.
There were fireworks in the first couple of minutes when Leeds’ Jordan Griffin and Chamberlain clashed – the home player earning five minutes in the cooler for fighting and his opponent two for roughing.
An interference penalty on goalie Sam Gospel gave Lightning a powerplay in the ninth minute and they took full advantage as Tim Wallace supplied Liam Stewart to equalise at 10mins 43secs.
Both outfits survived spells with a man in the sin bin – Leigh Jamieson ended the first session with an interference penalty, while Ben Solder went for tripping in the 23rd minute.
Stewart had a fine chance for MK while Jamie Chilcott forced a pad save from Smital before Cole Shudra edged the home side back in front on 27mins 37secs, aided by Matty Davies and Solder.
That was the way the score remained until Chamberlain squared the encounter, followed by Talbot’s goal that was enough for the win, despite Leeds calling a timeout with 61 seconds left and the withdrawal of Gospel for the extra skater.