A remarkable performance from the Manchester Storm second line ensured victory over the lowly Milton Keynes Lightning. In a typically tenacious encounter in Altrincham, there were 68 penalty minutes, 7 goals, 2 fights and 1 game misconduct. What more could you want on the small-ice?
Manchester Storm vs Milton Keynes Lightning (09/11/18)
Zero change in personnel from last Saturday’s home game against Fife saw Matt Ginn retain his position between the pipes and further his case as the clear ‘number 1’ in Manchester. The decision to scratch Jindrich Pacl and Dylan Anderson has now become a familiar sight for the Storm supporters, Declan Balmer (suspension) and Chris Auger (injury) were also out of the line-up.
Milton Keynes Lightning:
After their first visit to Altrincham, in late September, MKL have since made some adjustments to the roster. The recent additions of young Brits: Harry Ferguson & James Hounsome and import forward Robert Baillargeon have bolstered the forward ranks and options available to coach Doug McKay. Patrick Killeen was retained as the starting netminder, despite some pressure from young Adam Goss’ play in recent weeks. MKL would be without imports: Ryan Lannon and David Norris, and young Brit James Hounsome on this occasion.
Similar to the previous two home games, the spectators didn’t have to wait long for some action, after the puck-drop, when Shane Bakker and James Griffin decided to drop the gloves. The ‘fight’ was somewhat of a non-starter, as both players hit the ice before any significant blows were landed, but kudos to Griffin for squaring off against a much larger opponent in Bakker. Both teams were able to fashion good looks on goal, throughout the opening stanza, but it would be the home that would take the lead with 9:35 on the clock. Good play along the boards from Brendan Brooks retained possession and found Ciaran Long free below the goal line, who then teed-up Evan Richardson on the doorsteep to fire Manchester into the lead. No further goals meant the home side would take the 1-0 advantage into the first intermission, in a evenly contested period.
The second Storm goal, perhaps sums up hockey better than anyone can…just 15 seconds after MKL rung one off the iron they found themselves 2-0 down. A face-off win from Richardson and tip-play to the point from Brooks sent the puck towards defencemen Dallas Ehrhardt, whose optimistic wrist-shot from the point evaded everyone and doubled the Storm’s lead. However, this two-goal advantage wouldn’t last long, when a breakdown in defensive coverage allowed Robert Baillargeon to tuck away a Matt Ginn rebound, with assists going to Michael Fine and Martin Mazanec. Although, the second period dominance (26 shots to 12, in favour of Manchester) from the home-side would eventually pay dividends through another blueline wrister. Harrison Ruopp’s first goal for Manchester Storm started almost identically to the second goal with Richardson winning the draw and Brooks poking the puck to the point, although I feel the MKL netminder might have wanted this one back. The score would remain 3-1 to Manchester at the end of the second period, but it wasn’t the end of the action in this period. An incident, after the buzzer, saw Linden Springer and Nelson Armstrong drop the gloves, from my perspective these were two willing combatants. However, the officials saw things very differently, with Linden Springer bemusingly receiving a game misconduct, which meant Storm would have to play out the final period with just four defencemen.
The penalty on Springer, meant MKL were handed a powerplay opportunity, which they converted on after just 46 seconds. What appeared to be a soft wing pass from Michael Fine looked harmless until it got a tip from Eric Neiley and bounced over the glove of Matt Ginn to bring MKL within one. The Storm would shortly restore their two goal advantage with more fantastic play from the second line. A pin-point backhand pass from Evan Richardson found the stick of Ciaran Long, who riffled the puck into the top right-hand corner. However, the visitors wouldn’t go down quietly, as Robert Baillargeon scored his second of the night, assists going to Owen Griffiths and Georgs Golovkovs, with 4:41 left in the game. The Storm blueline were able to stand firm, for the remainder of the game, and ensure the two points stayed in Manchester. This improved Storm’s home record to 6-2-1 and leapfrog bitter rivalries Sheffield into 7th place. MKL remain rooted to the foot of the table, with just three wins in 15 and an away record of 1-7-1.
Four-point nights for Evan Richardson and Brendan Brooks were the difference in this encounter and the secondary scoring will have pleased Head Coach, Ryan Finnerty. The addition of Brooks was meant to reduce the over-reliance on forwards Moffat, Byers and Hammond. Now into his third weekend with the Storm, Brooks might well have found his grove and Finnerty could have found his forward lines for the upcoming fixtures. A tricky roadtrip to the kingdom of Fife now awaits, as the Storm hope to improve their poor road form (1-6-0). If they are successful, it would be their first four-point weekend this season.
MVP’s: Brendan Brooks (Manchester Storm) & Michael Fine (Milton Keynes Lightning)
SOG: Storm 52 & Lightning 32
Feature image: All Sports photography