Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning suffered a second successive shut out at home as they were beaten by a superior Cardiff Devils side at MK Arena on New Year’s Day.
From the moment Cardiff scored in the seventh minute it looked unlikely that Lightning would have any joy against the league leaders who extended their winning streak to 13 matches with this 5-0 victory.
Lightning were missing first choice netminder Miika Wiikman and so 21 year old Jordan Hedley was given his first competitive start for Lightning this season against a side who had already scored 115 times this campaign. Josh Crane, on the books of Milton Keynes Thunder, stepped in as back-up goalie.
However blame for few of the Cardiff goals could be laid entirely at the door of Hedley who was probably unsighted on at least two while the defence was lacking on others.
Many fans feared the worst, bearing in mind Lightning’s 6-3 loss to Devils in Wales two days earlier. Those worries increased when Layne Ulmer supplied Sean Bentivoglio to stab the puck home on 7mins 6secs.
As the game went on it seemed that fear was transferred to the host side as they looked increasingly unlikely to score with damage limitation a greater priority, especially after they were unable to register on any of the four powerplay chances they were handed in the first period.
It was not until the second session that Lightning incurred their first penalty – by that time Devils were two goals in front with Joey Martin setting up Devils’ long-serving defenceman, Mark Richardson, to blast in from the blue line on 12mins 36secs with Hedley’s view blocked by traffic.
Tommy Mele had an early first period chance when he found himself in space on the left but he shot straight at goalie Ben Bowns. Before the end of the session he limped off after pulling up with a leg injury while Devils lost the services of Joey Haddad who was thrown out for spearing.
The five minute powerplay resulting from Haddad’s penalty was curtailed when Carl Hudson was sin binned for hooking and while four on four Matt Pope produced a shot which Hedley was able to take with the glove.
As MK resumed on the powerplay following the expiry of Hudson’s time off the ice Paul Phillips fired in from the blue line, only for Bowns to save with his chest.
Devils forged further in front after Jonathan Boxill was handed a two minute penalty for slashing in the 32nd minute. Hedley dealt with a Richardson shot from the left but he could not stop an Andrew Hotham slapshot from the blue line – his view again being blocked by players in front of him to give Cardiff a 3-0 lead at 33mins 21secs.
If there was any vague hope of a third period recovery by the hosts then that was quickly extinguished when Justin Faryna was able to dance his way through the Lightning defence to finish off past Hedley just 1min 44secs in.
A series of three quick penalties on Kevin King (tripping), Lewis Hook (slashing), Quinn Pompi (cross-checking) and Kyle Essery (misconduct) were punished by Devils’ fifth goal as Patrick Asselin set up Bentivoglio for his second of the night after 49mins 22secs – the visitors having a two man advantage at the time.
It was not a night to remember for Lightning who will be looking for a massive improvement when they meet Nottingham Panthers in the second leg of their Challenge Cup quarter final.