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REPORT: Lightning head to showcase finals after one last home win (3 April)

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Milton Keynes Lightning logo The Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning bade farewell to MK Arena at English Premier League level for the last time with a comfortable final Championship Play-off victory against Hull Pirates on Sunday.

Players remained on the ice after the 6-2 win to say goodbye to the fans before the move into the Elite League next season. Many supporters will be following Lightning to Coventry Skydome for the play-off finals weekend.

However the margin of the win was not enough to put Pete Russell’s men top of Group B – Basingstoke Bison taking that honour with a 7-3 success at Swindon Wildcats in a game which finished after the final buzzer at MK Arena.

It means that Lightning will face Group A winners Guildford Flames at Coventry in a semi-final rematch of last year’s final – aiming to reverse the fortunes they experienced then in a 6-2 loss. Basingstoke will face Telford Tigers.

Hull never looked like being in with a chance – especially when Mk raced to a 3-0 lead within the first seven minutes and extended that advantage to five early in the second session before eventually beating goalie Jordan Hedley less than three minutes before the second break.

Hedley’s start over first choice netminder, Przemy Odrobny, meant Lightning could ice all five of their import out-skaters and it was one, Mikolaj Lopuski who put the side in front from Tom Carlon and captain Adam Carr’s set up after only 2mins 11secs.

Pirates, also playing their back-up netminder, Ashley Smith, fell further behind just over 90 seconds later when Finn Antti Hölli was on target, aid by the players with whom he has perfected such an effective partnership over the past month or so, Lewis Hook and Jordan Cownie.

It Hook who then took the tally to 3-0 on 6mins 47secs with an unassisted goal after winning possession on the left – the first of a straight hat-trick for him with Smith forced to retrieve the puck from the goal again when Craig Scott went up the left to set him up for the fourth goal at 15mins 59secs.

At the first break Lightning looked well on the way to a big win to secure top place and when Milan Baranyk and Scott winning the battle on the left to supply Hook for his third goal after 24mins 59secs it looked as though the margin of victory could extend to double figures.

In the event the hosts had to wait until the final ten minutes before bagging their sixth goal – Pirates pegging them back after the only penalty of the game went to Cownie who was given four minutes for roughing in the 29th minute.

Although MK remained intact during the short-handed period they could not stop Tommi Laine from supplying Ugnius Cizas for Hull’s middle session goal on 37mins 22secs. By that stage Bison were in command with a 4-1 lead at Swindon so the scale of what was required was becoming apparent.

But it was not until 9mins 55secs from the final buzzer that Lightning were able to find the net again – once again it was the Hölli-Hook-Cownie line, in that order which was responsible to give a 6-1 lead, Hölli turning in a pass from just over the blue line by Hook.

There was one last shot in the arm though from Hull when Jonathan Kirk scored unassisted with 29seconds – back-up goalie Chris Jenkins having replaced Hedley with 1min 11secs remaining.

First or second in the group the real battle is next weekend when Lightning will be trying to win the piece of silverware they last captured in 2005-2006.

Man of the Match: Lewis Hook

Report: Paul Brookman

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