MK Lightning book place in Playoff Grand Final with bug semi final win over Flames

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Milton Keynes Lightning logo The Smith Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning are into the final of the Championship Play-offs after defeating Guilford Flames by a convincing 8-3 margin in the semi final at Coventry Skydome on Saturday.

It was sweet revenge for Lightning who lost out to Flames 6-2 in last year's final. Three goals in the space of about two and half third period minutes put Lightning in charge for the first time in a game in which they had trailed three times before fighting back.

With the scores tied at three apiece Michael Farn fed Mikolaj Lopuski in space to put Lightning ahead for the first time on 50mins 6secs.

Netminder Mike Will was still reeling from conceding that goal when MK struck again within 24 seconds - Craig Scott supplying Frankie Bakrlik to edge the EPL Cup winners further in front.

Scott was then responsible for giving James Griffin a breakaway up the right from which he fired through the goalie's legs at 52mins 18secs to send the Lightning fans wild, knowing that a final spot was within touching distance.

Guildford's cause was then not helped when Finn Kari Sihvonen took exception to Lewis Christie and tried to pick a fight with him. He should have known better, for fighting is not Christie's game.

The result was that Sihvonen was thrown out of the encounter on a five minutes plus game penalty for roughing, while Christie continued.

Lightning could afford to relax during the extended powerplay and for much of it they did exactly that - playing possession hockey to frustrate the Flames penalty kill lines.

But for good measure they did add to their tally when Jordan Cownie fed Griffin for his second goal on 58mins 47secs.

When Tom Carlon received a two minute penalty for roughing with 42 seconds left Flames withdrew Will in favour of the extra skater. Lightning said thanks very much with Bakrlik, skating up the left, unselfishly laying the puck off for Emersic to complete his hat-trick 14 seconds from the buzzer.

Earlier Jez Lundin had given Flames the lead on 12mins 48secs with a powerplay strike scored during a goalmouth scramble - Lewis Hook in the sin bin at the time for holding.

Three minutes later Tom Carlon seized on a loose puck on the left hand side of goal to equalise on 15mins 41secs.

That's the way the score remained at the first break, Pete Russell's men surviving a boarding call on Leigh Jamieson after 17mins 6secs to end the session marginally better than Flames.

As the second session got under way Guildford exerted increasing pressure on Lightning and it was not long before they were back in front when Tuomas Santavuori went up the left with Marek Maslonka as decoy on his right - the Finn beating Przemy Odrobny after 22mins 54secs.

Once again the lead did not last long - a great piece of play seeing Scott pass to Emersic who went past the netminder before slotting home after 24mins 45secs. Guildford were again in the ascendancy on 29mins 37secs while Adam Carr was sitting out a hooking penalty - Lundin bagging his second from Sihvonen's set up.

Lightning took slightly longer this time to equalise but when they did it was Bakrlik who sent Emersic away with Scott acting as decoy - the Slovenian finishing off on 34mins 52secs to continue the cat and mouse nature of the encounter.

Neither team could add to their total before the second break - setting up a potentially tense final 20 minutes in which it looked as though one goal either way would settle things until MK took a grip in the 50th minute and never looked back.

The result - coupled with that of the second semi final - sets up a mouthwatering Grand Final on Sunday with Lightning facing Telford Tigers at 4pm.

Man of the Match: James Griffin

Report: Paul Brookman

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