Thrilling stuff at the the MK arena tonight as All In Black MK Lightning came from behind to grab a last gasp equaliser in regulation time, and then stylishly take the win early in Overtime thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from Liam Stewart.
Lightning started brightly, with Tim Wallace challenging the Sheffield keeper after 18 seconds, ending up with himself in the net rather than the puck. It was Sheffield who opened the scoring though, with Lightning’s Ed Knaggs caught in possession behind his own goal line and was robbed by Bisonnette who slid it out in front for Hewitt to score unchallenged. After that Sheffield looked to create chances and when Palmer went through and was pulled back by Ben Russell a Penalty Shot was awarded. In the end, it was an easy save for Hedley in the MK net.
Liam Stewart scored his first goal with 1:12 remaining in the first period, and then shortly after the break put Lightning ahead 2-1 with a nice finish after just 12 seconds of the second period. It was short lived though, as Bonner worked his way through the MK defence with some neat hands to deke Hedley and tie the game up again at 2-2 after 21:25.
From then on, it was a story of pressure from Lightning, counter attacks from Sheffield and a string of powerplays for the visitors with minor penalties for Wallce, Talbot and Nixon. Lightning killed the penalties well and made it to the second break still all square at 2-2.
In the third period, Smith was sent to the bin for 2 mins for the Steeldogs for a trip on Bobby Chamberlain. Towards the mid-point of the third it was penalties on Smith for Steeldogs and Rio Grinell-Parke for Lightning when they tangled on the blue line. Whilst looking for a chance in front of the Sheffield goal, Talbot was called for a hooking minor, which he protested but the official was not going to change his mind.
By now the string of penalties had mounted up on Lightning and it was Bonner again who got on the end of a Bisonnette pass in a composed Steeldogs powerplay to put them ahead 2-3 with 11:12 to go in the third. Plenty of time left for a Lightning comeback, and from then on it was Lightning creating chance after chance, with Sheffield’s man of the match netminder Dimitri Zimozdra playing an exceptional game in the Sheffield net to keep Lightning at bay.
In the end, ti came down to 3 moments. First, Lightning pulled Hedley with 90 seconds to go. Second, Jason Hewitt received a minor penalty with just 1:07 left on the clock. Third, Lightning planned and executed their attack via a timeout, to move the puck round slickly and send Sean Norris down the right to bury past Zimozdra to equalise with 36 seconds to go to send the game to Overtime.
Overtime began with Wallace, Stewart and Griffin on the ice, and after Sheffield pressed early, Liam Stewart took advantage of the extra space on the ice that 3 on 3 gave, broke down the right, and shot low and hard into the Sheffield net to send the 1750 fans wild with happiness at the win.
Overall, a neutral would possibly say that Lightning were worth the win with a display of organised, intense and structured hockey, remaining composed with the penalties and the dogged refusal of Zimozdra to give anything away. This was a fantastic opening to the season, and a great hockey night in Milton Keynes.
Lightning are home again next Saturday, 24th September 2022 when Bees visit the MK Arena. Tickets are on sale now at bit.ly/WatchMKL, and every game is Live Streamed at bit.ly/MKLStream.
Man of the match: Liam Stewart