Sheffield Steelers were not just beaten but destroyed as well, as on-fire Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning made history with a convincing 7-2 win at MK Arena on Saturday (25 November).
Steelers’ last visit to Milton Keynes was exactly 22 years to the day, during the era of Milton Keynes Kings who never took any more than a point from them.
It was Steelers heaviest loss of the season and put Lightning level on points with them after a performance which was a far cry from the previous two home games.
With Steelers’ long reputation as one of the big guns of the Elite League going before them home fans could hardly believe their eyes when Lightning extended a 2-0 first period lead to four unanswered goals by the second break.
Even when Steelers grabbed two third session replies it seemed unlikely that Lightning would surrender the game. And so it proved, in emphatic style as they wrapped up the encounter with three more goals of their own to again send out a message that they mean business in hockey’s top tier.
Christian Isackson set up Tommy Mele for a rocket shot from inside the blue line to get the show on the road after 4mins 11secs – at that stage Steelers had not had a shot on goalie Miika Wiikman.
Two minutes later came the first of a number of clashes with Alex Forbes edging the battle with Brady Ramsay – both receiving five minutes in their respective coolers for fighting.
It was not long before the second match up as Kevin King and the giant Andre Deveaux were both assessed two minute roughing penalties – the Steelers man also taking a 10 minutes misconduct call at the same time.
Neither event provided the spark for Steelers to draw level. Instead it was Lightning who doubled their lead when King made the supply for Francis Verreault-Paul to blast home on 14mins 49secs while Steelers were a man short for having too many men on the ice.
Back at even strength Great Britain international Ben O’Connor forced Wiikman into making a glove save before Mele set up King for a shot which was saved.
O’Connor and then Zack Fitzgerald ended up in the sin bin for hooking and tripping respectively, giving MK a five on three powerplay which passed without further score.
Deveaux’s involvement in the encounter was ended early in the second session when he picked up a second major penalty, this time for a check to the head, and although Lightning were unable to add to their tally on the powerplay they did so when man of the match Mele was again involved as Carl Hudson made it 3-0 after 27m ins 38secs.
If the large army of Steelers fans were hoping that would be the spark for some kind of fightback from their team they were disappointed. Penalties on Jonathan Boxill for hooking and Paul Phillips for interference gave them a five on three advantage which was swiftly reduced to one as Tim Wallace was called for interference.
Lightning survived both short-handed spells and were soon back on scoring mood – Hudson supplying King in the neutral zone to go clear and beat goalie Ervin Mustukovs at 33mins 42secs.
Denny Kearney ended the period in the sin bin after he looked to be harshly penalised for goalie interference – to many it looked as though he had been pushed into the netminder by a Steelers defenceman.
Nevertheless MK survived the penalty going into the third session and it was not until 45mins 54secs that Steelers finally beat Wiikman – Liam Kirk firing home.
When Fitzgerald was sin binned for slashing less than two minutes later Lightning were unable to make anything of it – instead former MK King Jonathan Phillips gave his side just a glimmer of hope with his team’s second strike on 48mins 49secs.
That optimism was squashed though as Steelers failed to clear the puck from the area in front of goal as Kearney set up the ever improving Mele to slot home on 52mins 29secs.
Lightning fans were ecstatic when Guillaume Doucet put the game well and truly beyond the visitors with a powerplay goal while David Phillips was off the ice for holding the opponent’s stick – the sixth marker coming on 54mins 18secs.
It was the icing on the cake when a confident Lightning rounded off the tally as the result of a cheeky long pass forward from Phillips which found Mele to accelerate away and beat Mustukovs one on one with 24 seconds left.
Man of the match: Tommy Mele.
Photo: Mel Dickens