Raiders inflicted the first back-to-back defeats for Milton Keynes Lightning since early November when they completed a weekend double over the city side in a 4-3 win at the Sapphire Centre on Sunday.
The result was identical to that of the encounter between the two sides 24 hours earlier at Planet Ice. On this occasion though, it was Lightning who took the lead rather than the opposition – only to go two goals behind in the latter stages of the second period.
Brandon Stones made his first start in goal since November 28 when MK beat Basingstoke Bison 8-4 – his only other appearance being when he replaced Matt Smital in a 5-2 loss at home to Sheffield Steeldogs a week before Christmas.
The weekend results leave Lightning in third position – a point behind second placed Telford Tigers who also suffered two losses over the weekend, but three adrift of leaders Swindon Wildcats.
A series of penalties early on in the game failed to divide Raiders and MK – the hosts’ Brandon Ayliffe visiting the sin bin as early as 38 seconds on a tripping penalty. MK’s Tyler Nixon was assessed four minutes for a high stick in the seventh minute after catching Ayliffe in the face.
Lewis Christie was penalised for roughing in the 12th minute, while Raiders Sean Barry was caught hooking four seconds from the end of the MK penalty. That gave the visitors a 1min 56secs powerplay which ended when Sean Norris and Leigh Jamieson were involved in the goal by Bobby Chamberlain which broke the deadlock at 15mins 38secs.
Raiders got back on terms 2mins 18secs after the start of the second period when they turned over MK on their blue line – the suppliers JJ Pitchley and Jake Sylvester for Lukas Sladkovsky even things up.
The reply from Lightning was swift – Norris breaking up the left hand side and Sam Talbot getting the final touch at 23mins 33secs, the second assist going to Ed Knaggs.
From then on life became increasingly difficult for Lewis Clifford’s charges. Sladovsky was again on the mark on 25mins 46secs thanks to help from Sylvester and Pitchley to make it 2-2.
Raiders edged in front after 36mins 41secs with Dan Scott and Callum Wells involved as Tommy Huggett finished off. A bench penalty for too many men on the ice cost MK dearly 1min 33secs before the second break.
Raiders took full advantage, striking through Aaron Connelly, aided by Barry and Ayliffe, with 47 seconds to the buzzer. It gave a 4-2 lead that Raiders didn’t surrender until it was far too late to make a difference.
Lightning were unable to make much impression in the third period – Talbot hitting the post with less than 10 minutes remaining. It was only after a timeout that led to withdrawal of Stones for the extra skater that the visitors registered their third goal through Liam Stewart, aided by Norris just five seconds from the end.