Coventry here we come! Bees were stung by two late goals as Milton Keynes Lightning sealed their place at ‘The Dance’ with a 5-3 victory at Planet Ice on Friday.
The result meant that Lightning qualified for the final four play-offs with one game – at Telford Tigers – to spare. Tigers join them at the Skydome after defeating Leeds Knights.
With home fans chanting ‘Win it for Norris’ from the 86 seconds point – a reference to injured Sean’s shirt number and the injury he suffered in the first game – MK were dealt an early blow when Juha Lindgren and Dominik Gabaj combined on a dual raid. Lindgren made the cross to Gabaj to fire in at the back post on 5mins 7secs.
The goal was against the run of play and it didn’t take too long for the home side to level, captain Russ Cowley blasting towards goal, the puck rebounding to James Griffin to shoot from distance past goalie Adam Goss at 10mins 5secs.
Lightning saw off two penalties – Leigh Jamieson called for tripping and Ross Green a slash on Gabaj – to go into the locker room all square at the first break.
There were early attempts in the middle period for MK from Bobby Chamberlain, Mikey Power and Hallden Barnes-Garner but none beat Goss until Barnes-Garner was able to supply Power to fire home from the left on 27mins 35secs.
Coach Lewis Clifford was forced to adjust the lines when Morgan Pizzo was ejected on a match penalty for high sticks, Leigh Jamieson moving from defence to the forward line. It gave Bees a five-minute long powerplay that came an abrupt end when Alan Lack was sin-binned for roughing as the teams were four on four for 30 seconds or so.
As MK’s penalty expired, Gabaj was caught pushing Lewis Christie down on the ice and that put the home outfit on a five on three powerplay – duly punishing Bees in the best possible way with Tim Wallace beating Goss from inside the blue line at 3mins 39secs for a 3-1 lead.
Despite that, Bees reduced the deficit when Lack got the final touch from Zaine McKenzie with 1min 5secs remaining in the middle session to set up a tense start to the third period.
A tripping penalty on man of the match Liam Stewart put Bees at a man advantage early in the final period and they capitalised with a Josh Smith marker at 43mins 42secs.
However, Bees soon fell foul of the officials’ whistle when Josh Kelly joined Harvey Stead in the sin bin – both for tripping. Lightning said thank you very much for the five on three powerplay to make it 4-3 as Stewart finished off, following great work by Wallace and Chamberlain at 49mins 24secs.
With two minutes to go Bees were reduced to four skaters after being called for too many men but when Matt Smital’s tripping penalty cut the home team’s manpower Bees withdrew Goss to give a five on four skater advantage. The move backfired thanks to Griffin’s supply to Wallace who wrapped up the 5-3 result with an empty net goal at 59mins 32secs to send Bees out of the competition and the home fans delighted.
Man of the match: Liam Stewart.