Michael Farn made a surprise but welcome return to Milton Keynes Lightning as they closed the gap on league leaders Swindon Wildcats to two points with a comfortable 9-4 win at the Link Centre on Thursday.

Farn, now player coach at Streatham Redhawks, was drafted in to fill the growing number of injuries for Lewis Clifford’s side. He did not disappoint, slotting in as if he’d never been away, despite the fact he last appeared for the club in their final English Premier League season in 2016-2017.

Wildcats too were short on their normal roster due to injury and Covid-19 protocol, most noticeably Polish import, Tomasz Malasinski, and Edgars Bebris, and were forced to give younger players extra ice time.

In truth once Sean Norris had scored twice in the first eight minutes or so, Lightning never looked in danger of losing this vital game. Bobby Chamberlain was the supplier for Norris to go one on one with netminder Dean Skinns on his first shift, scoring at 1min 32secs.

Russell Cowley had the puck in the net in the third minute but the ‘goal’ was disallowed with a player in the goal crease. It was not too long though before Norris doubled his tally while MK were short handed, thanks to a slashing call on Sam Talbot. This time Norris shot through Skinns’ legs at 8mins 6secs.

Swindon cut the deficit on 17mins 21secs when Aaron Nell supplied Emil Svec from the right hand side. Moments later MK had a powerplay with plenty of pressure but no goals after Neil Liddiard was penalised for tripping.

The visitors edged two goals in front again on 24mins 8secs thanks to a fabulous shot from Liam Stewart while Ollie Endicott was in the sin bin. But Wildcats hit back with their second of the night through Loris Taylor, aided by Sam Smith, at 26mins 4secs.

The response from Lightning was immediate – Leigh Jamieson broke one on one to beat Skinns just 21 seconds later to make it 4-2. There was an almost identical reply to Wildcats’ third goal from Chris Jones, scoring at the back post from Balint Pakozdi’s pass on 30mins 25secs. Norris, aided by Chamberlain and Lewis Christie, quickly restored the two goal gap for his hat-trick at 31mins 49secs.

Just 1min 24secs from the second buzzer Ross Green was provider for Talbot to give a 6-3 score but Lightning were not finished. The third session saw them maintaining momentum even though there was an anxious moment when Edgars Landsbergs clashed with Pakozdi, picking up a five minute boarding penalty.

MK survived the prolonged short handed spell before adding to their tally as Chamberlain made the pass for Norris to go up the left and past the netminder before firing in at 50mins 32secs.

Talbot extended the lead to 8-3 on 54mins 7secs with a shot over Skinns shoulder before Nell gained a fourth from Svec at 56mins 33secs.

A late penalty on Liddiard gave MK another powerplay. They looked unconcerned about adding to the score until Green’s blast from distance ended up in the back of the net with 59 seconds remaining to complete a great trip with a 9-4 final score.

Man of the match: Sam Talbot.