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Flames fail to advance beyond semi final

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Guildford Flames logoIn the Semi-final, the Flames held the lead on 3 different occasions but a 5 goal collapse inside the final 10 minutes ensured a Playoff title defence would not succeed this season after an 8-3 defeat to Milton Keynes Lightning. A tricky start for the Flames had them 2 men down for nearly 90 seconds thanks to a pair of penalties less than 5 minutes after face off, but a strong penalty killing sequence held the game scoreless.

Flames forwards Jens Eriksson and Kari Sihvonen working to gain puck control post faceoff against Lightning skater Blaz Emersic.   Photo by John Uwins. The Flames powerplay followed up by breaking the deadlock thanks to a Jez Lundin strike at 12:48, but the Lighting replied a few minutes later with a Tom Carlon goal to even the affair ahead of the break. Tuomas Santavuori nudged the Flames ahead early in the 2nd but the Lighting squared it with a Blaz Emersic reply less than 2 minutes later. Another Flames powerplay goal, again by Lundin, set up the Flames 3rd lead of the afternoon just ahead of the halfway mark, but as they did each time before, the Lightning again levelled, on this occasion with Emersic’s 2nd of the contest at 34:52. The scoring pattern changed substantially just over halfway through the final frame when the Lightning bagged a pair just 26 seconds part. Mikolaj Lopuski gave the Bolts their first lead of the evening at 50:04 and Frantisek Bakrlik immediately made it a 5-3 game. Not long after that all outcome doubt was removed with Lightning’s 6th then a late 7th strike each off the stick of James Griffin; the last on a Major penalty powerplay less than 2 minutes from time. Just 15 seconds from close Emersic completed his hat trick into an empty Flames net while Surrey’s side tried to convert a powerplay by making it a 2 man advantage with netminder Mike Will on the bench.

“We had a great run to advance this far by finishing on top of a very tough group,” said Head Coach Paul Dixon. “When you get to the one off games, you just never know what is going to happen, and clearly giving up 5 goals in a very short period of time was something we did not expect. We had some ups and downs this season, but with the exception of the final 10 minutes, we had a playoff stretch that we can be very proud of to close out the year. It didn’t happen for us today, and it could be seen as a cruel and abrupt end, but we are going to view the playoffs as a whole, and look at how we managed to turn things around compared to the earlier parts of the season. We are now moving up to top flight so there will be a very large number of changes to our roster, and I want these players to know that they did themselves proud in the last competition they will spend as a member of this club. It is now time for us to look ahead to next season, and start looking at a line-up we think can compete in the country’s top level of pro hockey.”

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