REPORT: Lightning 4-5 Manchester Phoenix (AOT) 30 Jan

Manchester Phoenix inflicted overtime heartbreak on Smith Recycling sponsored MK Lightning with a game winning goal just 28 seconds from the end of the extra period at MK Arena on Saturday.

But Lightning had only themselves to blame after giving Phoenix a two goal start and then giving up a two goal lead with less than 10 minutes to go.

After Frankie Bakrlik put the home side two goals clear on 46mins 14secs Phoenix responded by upping the tempo – Lightning seemingly failing to notice the change in pace.

Their determination paid off shortly afterwards with former MK player Jacob Corson-Heron narrowing the gap with a well-taken goal on 50mins 17secs from Mark Thomas’ set up – disappointing all the home faithful except his mum, Fiona, the Lightning announcer!

Manchester’s comeback was further boosted when another ex-MK man Ben Russell supplied Stanislav Gron for the equaliser 2mins 22secs later.

The momentum was with the visitors from then on and although they could not grab the winner in regulation time they did so when goalie Dean Skinns was caught out by Gron’s unassisted shot 4mins 32secs into the five minutes of sudden death overtime.

As has seemingly become customary on so many occasions this season the hosts gave the opposition a two goal start before hitting back with three unanswered goals – the first two coming from former Manchester players Bakrlik and Bobby Chamberlain.

Lightning welcomed back defenceman Martti Jarventie from injury while Markku Tahtinen was in the line-up – allaying fans’ fears of a serious injury following his premature departure from the previous weekend’s game with Sheffield Steeldogs

It was against the run of play when ex-Lightning man James Archer fed Robin Kovar from the left wing to poke the puck in from close range to give Manchester the lead on 6mins 55secs.

By that stage Lightning had already seen Blaz Emersic and Jarventie fire past the left post before the Finn beat three Manchester players only to put in a weak shot on Phoenix goalie Stephen Fone.

If home supporters expected Manchester’s go ahead goal to prompt MK into upping their game they were disappointed as Luke Boothroyd’s long pass out of defence was met by Martin Baranek who went up the right and beat netminder Dean Skinns on 11mins 32secs.

With less than five minutes of the first session remaining coach Pete Russell switched the line combinations and it had an immediate effect as Tahtinen was moved to partner Bakrlik and Emersic after starting with Adam Carr and Jack Watkins.

Within seconds the move paid off with Tahtinen starting the move which saw James Griffin and Michael Farn gaining the assists on Bakrlik’s strike at 16mins 26secs.

It looked to be business as usual when Griffin was provider for Bobby Chamberlain to square things up on 22mins 1sec and then Tahtinen made the pass for Emersic to lift the puck high to the right of Fone after 24mins 30secs.

Lightning had the better of the remainder of the second session but could not capitalise on their chances until Bakrlik put a two goal gap between the outfits early in the third period.

By then further line changes had been forced by the loss of injured Grant McPherson with only a minute or so the third period gone.

The hosts’ fourth goal prompted a Phoenix revival in a game which ended in an ugly scene as Chamberlain and Baranek clashed during the final handshakes – each being given a total of 14 minutes for roughing.

Man of the Match: Frantisek Bakrlik

Report: Paul Brookman

NEXT HOME GAME: Saturday 13 February vs Swindon Wildcats – tickets on sale now from the MK Arena box office, buy in person OR by phone 01908 540020 OR online www.mk-lightning.co.uk/tickets

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