Early Feb I said to the girlfriend “what do you want for your birthday”. Now, we’re not one of those couples that have to take loans out to buy each other presents for birthdays and Christmas in an effort to prove anything. Truth be told, the better half isn’t even that fussed about birthdays, but a budget was set and I was armed with the knowledge that taking her to a Blues game isn’t a present for her, so avoid doing that (again!).
She loves her ice Hockey, just as much as I do, but possibly for different reasons. So I take a gander online and see the 2nd leg cup final tickets are released! Awesome! I double check that tickets to the ice hockey constitute worthy birthday fodder and it’s a beaming smile and a yes! Brilliant.
So, something sparkly and feminine to prove I’m a good boyfriend and tickets to the cup final to have a great evening out – sold!
The stage was set – MK Lightning needed the home win after a narrow first leg final defeat up in Peterborough to take the final to sudden death overtime.
The lights went down.
The music went up.
Then rapturous noise ensued as Lightning made their way out onto the ice! Now it’s hockey time!
I’d not seen the MK Arena like it before – packed to the rafters, a sell-out crowd making a shit ton of noise ready to support their team. And I do mean support! The place was absolutely buzzing!
There was also a huge air of optimism about the place, even from me, who’s had every nuance of optimism wrenched out of me from being 34 years a Bluenose! A real, almost tangible sense of “we can do this” exuded the place as we took to our seats in unusually good time.
After the noise, introductions and anthem came time for the first face-off of the evening.
MK Lightning set about the Phantoms like men on a mission. The first half of the first period was all Lightning with the Phantoms conceding their first Power Play after only 22 seconds. However, even though Peterborough had started to edge their way back into the game they went a goal down after 12 minutes when Antti Holli scored his first of the night from a Hook assist.
From the start, the game had a little spice about it with both teams being very physical and tempers occasionally flaring – which just added to the whole occasion.
Holli added his and Lightning’s second nearly halfway through the second period on 28 minutes in an almost identical play that saw him take his first. The match then got a bit scrappy from an MK perspective with a succession of infringements landing a number of players in the penalty box. It could have been a phase of the match that allowed the Phantoms to get back in control of the final, but if it weren’t for some heroic defending and world class saves between the pipes.
Frank Bakrlik sealed the regulation time win on 51 minutes when he fired home from an Emersic assist. By that point Overtime became an inevitability.
Regulation time ended, and the match went into 3 on 3 sudden death overtime. Holy crap if I didn’t go through every emotion known to man. Both teams just absolutely going for the win. Overtime was end to end with action for both goalies. In truth, either of team could have stolen the win, but in no time at all the 5 minutes were up and we went into a penalty shoot-out.
Now, I know Antti Holli won man of the match and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t deny him it. But I just want to suggest my own man of the match. Przemy Odrobny. The match could have gone on for days and the Phantoms wouldn’t have scored against the Pole he just seemed to be in one of those moods. “Nothing is getting past me tonight” (or the Polish equivalent) the man was stopping everything.
Each time he skated up to the goal during the penalties he had the look of a man who was in complete control of the outcome of that penalty. Simply outstanding that night and a reason why the crowd were chanting his name relentlessly the entire evening.
So, 7 penalties down, no goals – nail biting stuff, or in my case really twitchy leg time. Up steps the captain Adam Carr. The whistle blew and he begins his charge on the Phantoms goal. BANG! The puck hits the top corner of the net, the light behind the goal goes red, the crowd goes absolutely mental and the players charge the ice towards their captain discarding their gear on the way.
LIGHTNING HAVE WON THE CUP!
Seriously, I couldn’t have written this any better. The match had everything. If anyone new to ice hockey or new to MK Lightning were in attendance I imagine they will be in attendance again next season! From start to finish this was a perfect example of why this is a sport more people should get to know or get involved in.