REPORT: Bison 1-2 MKL (after OT and pens)
Smith Recycling sponsored MK Lightning qualified for the final of the championship play-offs after the closest of battles with Basingstoke Bison at Coventry Skydome on Saturday.
The game went to a penalty shoot out after regulation time and overtime failed to separate the two sides who were tied at 1-1.
Eventually it took a fantastic upstairs penalty shot by Bobby Chamberlain – following misses by Blaz Emersic and Adam Carr – to seal the final spot.
Leigh Jamieson who put Lightning ahead on 46mins 56secs was voted man of the match but for many of the MK supporters the accolade should have gone to goalie Dean Skinns.
He kept Lightning in the game in the first ten minutes as his team mates made a slow, slightly nervous start to the match.
However once they got into their stride there was little to choose between the league champions and Lightning.
Skinns made a string of super saves when Michael Farn was called for kneeing with only 2mins 39secs gone.
Bison piled on the pressure with half a dozen close range efforts but Skinns remained solid between the pipes.
While short-handed Blaz Emersic managed to break up ice, setting up Lewis Hook but Tomas Hiadlovsky in the Bison goal kept his attempt out.
Back at even strength Skinns was able to deal with efforts from Tomas Karpov, Ciaran Long and Rene Jarolin before Lightning produced their best effort so far. Hiadlovsky was stranded on the ice when Jordan Cownie attempted to put the puck in from close range – unfortunately it took a strange bounce away from danger.
There was more danger for Lightning with Karpov and Joe Greener both trying their luck but Skinns again stood up to the challenge as Lewis Christie and then James Griffin both fired in shots from distance.
The second session was an even affair with Farn threatening within the first few seconds and James Griffin seeing his drive pushed away by Hiadlovsky a little while later.
When Joe Greener was sin binned for tripping Frankie Bakrlik on 26mins 36secs MK’s best hope was snuffed out as Miroslav Vantroba cut out a Carr pass with players in the zone.
Markku Tahtinen went for cross checking after 31mins 32secs but still Bison couldn’t break through with the extra man.
It was much the same for the remainder of the period – Long, Shaun Thompson and Greener all testing Skinns while at the other end Hiadlovsky had to deal with shots from Hook, Bakrlik and Cownie.
The opening goal came after Skinns denied Greener and then Karpov in the opening minutes of the third session – Jamieson coming up with Lightning’s best attempt at the other end.
Hiadlovsky’s resolve was broken after Farn’s pass out of defence was met by Grant McPherson. He advanced up the right and crossed to Jamieson who fired high into the goal despite falling to the ice under challenge from his Bison marker.
Lightning’s joy was short lived though – and Jamieson had a part to play in Bison’s powerplay equaliser as he was in the sin bin on a diving penalty. Skinns was already committed when the puck ran loose for Greener to poke in from close range at 49mins 30secs.
Two minutes later Bakrlik’s involvement in the game ended when he was assessed two minutes plus 10 for a check to the head of Kurt Reynolds and two minutes for roughing – his Bison opponent, Grant Rounding, also receiving two minutes.
The call ruled Bakrlik out of contention when it came to the penalty shoot out by a matter of seconds. In the end it didn’t matter as Chamberlain did the business to send Bison to defeat and finish their hopes of a league and play-off double.
Man of the Match: Leigh Jamieson
Report: Paul Brookman
The EPIHL Final will face off at 4pm Sunday 3rd April at the Skydome Arena Coventry – Lightning will face either Peterborough or Guildford. Live in-game updates on MKL’s Twitter feed at http://Twitter.com/MKL_Official