The Belfast Giants, thankfully unaffected by the overnight storm, had arrived safely in Milton Keynes for their third in three.
Waiting for them was a fresh Lightning squad, playing their first of the weekend and backstopped by a gifted goaltender in Patrick Killeen despite his league high GAA of 3.42.
Meanwhile, Adam Keefe favoured Stephen Murphy over Tyler Beskorowany in goal- no doubt looking ahead to Tuesday’s Challenge Cup Semi Final 1st leg clash with Glasgow.
David Rutherford travelled, but was once again unavailable for selection at game time.
Belfast opened their account with just two minutes gone, when Dustin Johner broke into the right hand side of the Lightning zone and set up a crashing Darcy Murphy- who had two bites of the cherry and buried his own rebound. Assist: Johner, Vandermeer (1-0)
The Giants applied solid pressure after the drop, with Killeen taking care of a number of quality chances.
A mid-period holding call on Kevin Raine also led to Kendall McFaull and Cole Shudra receiving a pair of twos for roughing.
Latvian national team call-up George Golovkos pounced on the man advantage for MKL, skating Stephen Murphy’s left circle to mid slot unchallenged before hammering the puck home high-glove. Assist: Fine, Wallace (1-1)
Harry Ferguson gifted Belfast their first power play of the night with 2.23 left in the period, and Darcy Murphy pounced once again- picking up a Vandermeer pass from the point and rocketing home his second of the night from the left circle. Assist: Vandermeer, Higgins (1-2)
The Belfast Giants were outshooting the MK Lightning 21-7 as the first period ended.
Unfortunately for Milton Keynes, it took just 18 seconds of the middle period for Patrick Dwyer to add some breathing room to the scoreline, punching Belfast 3-1 ahead from close range. Assist: Higgins (1-3)
Harry Ferguson was to head for the penalty box once again on a slashing call, but the Belfast power play unit were unsuccessful.
Curtis Leonard carried the puck around the back of Killeen’s net at the 35 minute mark, laying it up to Josh Roach on the right hand side of the blue line- his one timer zipping through traffic, off the post and into the net to widen the gap at 35.03. Assist: Leonard, Hook (1-4)
With 1.23 left in the period, Michael Fine sat for hooking and the Belfast power play unit took over. And then, at 19.07, if you’ll pardon the pun, lightning struck twice.
In a freakishly similar looking attempt from the exact same stretch of blue line, Josh Roach rifled another one timer straight past Killeen to put the Giants 5-1 ahead at 19.07. Assist: Leonard, Dwyer (1-5)
Dustin Johner was to sit for interference in the first minute of the final period, but the Giants penalty kill unit stood tall- pinning the puck high and in fact providing a couple of short handed opportunities.
The lead was extended with 14.47 left in the game. Blair Riley connected with a Darcy Murphy pass from the left hand side of the zone, beating the Lightning goaltender from close range to make it 1-6. Assist: D. Murphy (1-6)
And shortly after, it was the end of Patrick Killeen’s night as former MK player Jonathan Boxill punched in Belfast’s 7th unassisted. (1-7)
Adam Goss took over in the Lightning crease with ten minutes to go and the game all but over.
A rush of goals in the final few minutes began with an absolutely filthy dangle from Chris Higgins- the Belfast Datsyuk showing and toeing it past Goss for a beautiful 8th goal of the night for Adam Keefe’s men. (1-8)
Michael Fine provided the home fans with a consolation goal immediately following the drop, beating Stephen Murphy high blocker for their second of the night. (2-8)
Jonathan Boxill then responded with his second and Belfast’s 9th of the night as the clock wound down. (2-9)
Now… it’s rare that the 9th goal of any game is historic, but as reported by AVFTB statistician Davy McGimpsey earlier today- the assist awarded to Belfast Giants and Team GB’s all time top point scorer Colin Shields on Boxill’s goal broke the record for most points scored in Elite League History.
Not only that, it was during his 600th game for the club… and on his birthday.
Quite a way to draw a six point weekend to a close.
Hands up if you had the league wrapped up last week?
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Images: Milton Keynes Lightning TV