MK Lightning kick off season with 4-3 overtime win vs Raiders

    Image Credit: © Tony Sargent

    The Milton Keynes Lightning have earned a victory to start their season, with a 4-3 overtime win against the Raiders in the NIHL National Cup.

    The Lightning left it late to snatch victory from their opponents, with the Raiders less than five minutes away from a regulation victory, with Sean Norris' impressive solo effort rewarding him with the game-winning goal.

    The game started fairly evenly, with both teams showing rust after such a long absence from regular competitive hockey due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

    The Raiders threatened first, seeing a shot rocket off Brandon Stones' post after seven minutes of play, but then the visitors gifted the home side with a power-play after Sean Barry was adjudged a tripping minor.

    Bobby Chamberlain came closest to breaking the deadlock during the man advantage, with a shot from the slot being comfortably saved by goaltender Ethan James - who earned his side's Player of the Game honour.

    Not long after their powerplay ended, the Lightning were given a bench minor for too many men on the ice - allowing the Raiders to put plenty of pressure on Stones, who came up big with a stop down low halfway through the advantage.

    Despite a nervy moment where Stones lost sight of the puck, which was fortunately scooped up by his defenceman, the Lightning prevented the visitors from scoring on the powerplay.

    It took just under a minute after it ended, however, for the first goal of the game to be scored - with Erik Piatak getting a breakway down the left flank and burying a shot beyond the reach of Stone to put his side ahead with 13:39 of the first period played.

    The goal came after Sam Talbot's strong shot forced a close-range save from James, with the Raiders' defencemen able to pick out the Slovakian forward wide open in the neutral zone.

    The Lightning picked up the pace after going a goal down, with both Lewis Christie and Chamberlain forcing impressive saves late in the period before a nervy scramble in front of the net almost bore fruit before the buzzer rang out.

    The second period could not have started worse for the Lightning, with Aaron Connolly striking just 13 seconds into the period, somehow fitting the puck through the tightest of spaces on Stones' pad side.

    James Griffin got a couple of threatening shots off later in the period, after the Lightning found themselves back on the powerplay after a Tjay Anderson cross check, but he could not find a way through James.

    It wasn't until Talbot linked up with Leigh Jamieson to tap a perfectly placed pass into the net, pulling the Lightning within one less than halfway through the period - just one of many impressive moments from the young forward throughout the night.

    Things became heated later in the second when Thomas Relf was called for a roughing penalty on Sean Norris, who took exception to the move and responded with a cross check that earned him a two-plus-two penalty, giving the Raiders the advantage as time expired.

    The Lightning figured things out in the third period, starting quickly with a Griffin shot setting the tempo that the team had lacked through the first 40 minutes of play.

    Just under nine minutes into the third saw the Lightning tie the score at 3-3 when Talbot picked up a Norris pass and lifted it backhanded into the net, sending the crowd into rapturous celebrations.

    The two sides played fairly evenly throughout the period, but the Raiders looked set to steal all two points when Jake Sylvester tapped the loose puck into the net after Stones was unable to control a save.

    The Lightning did not give up and continued to put pressure on James, with Chamberlain the hero that sent the team into overtime after picking up the puck in the slot, turning and slamming it into the back of the net with a strong wrist shot.

    The 1400-plus crowd was rocking by this stage and it took less than a minute-and-a-half for the Lightning to snatch victory, with Sean Norris weaving through the Raiders defence, nearly losing possession close to the net before turning and lifting the puck over James' shoulder.

    The result gives the Lightning a victory in the Cup to start the 2021/20 season, with plenty to build on moving forward.

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