Hull Seahawks 4 Milton Keynes Lightning 5 - Late drama sees lead slip from Seahawks' grasp at halfway point of NIHL National Cup Final

TRAILING they may be after this first instalment of the NIHL National Cup Final, but Hull Seahawks are still very much in the game against Milton Keynes Lightning.
FINAL SHOWDOWN: Hull Seahawks took on Milton Keynes Lightning in the first leg of the NIHL National Cup Final on Wednesday night.FINAL SHOWDOWN: Hull Seahawks took on Milton Keynes Lightning in the first leg of the NIHL National Cup Final on Wednesday night.
FINAL SHOWDOWN: Hull Seahawks took on Milton Keynes Lightning in the first leg of the NIHL National Cup Final on Wednesday night.

In a pulsating first leg encounter at Hull Ice Arena, the lead changed hands several times as the clash see-sawed this way and that in front of a sell-out 1,600 crowd.

In the end, it was two goals in six third period seconds that saw Milton Keynes Lightning take a one-goal lead back to their building for the second leg on Tuesday night.

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Hull will be sore at having let a one-goal lead slip so late in the game, but they have everything to play for - spurred on by the fact that they are the only team to beat the Lightning on their home ice this season.

FINAL DATE: Hull Seahawks' head coach,  Matty Davies. Picture: Bruce RollinsonFINAL DATE: Hull Seahawks' head coach,  Matty Davies. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
FINAL DATE: Hull Seahawks' head coach, Matty Davies. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It was no surprise that the hosts made the more energetic start, defenceman Declan Balmer forcing the first save of the night in the second minute when he drove into the Lightning zone and forced Jordan Hedley to smother.

It was Hedley who was in action again next, denying Owen Bruton with his outstretched right pad after the teenage forward had been found with a defence-splitting pass by Finlay Ulrick.

Jamie Chilcott signalled his intent with a crashing hit on Carter Hamill near the right boards, the former Leeds Knights’ winger left lying on the ice temporarily before getting up and making it back to the bench.

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But, even though somewhat against the run of play, the visitors answered that in perfect style shortly after, player-coach Tim Wallace driving down the right before squaring to Liam Stewart, who was all alone to lift the puck over Jordan McLaughlin’s right shoulder and into the roof of the net at 7.51.

Owen Sobchak came close to levelling while Hull were on the penalty kill for a hooking call on Tomb Stubley but he couldn’t quite bring the puck under control enough before Hedley steered it away to safety in the 13th minute.

Thereafter, it was the Lightning who created the more clear-cut chances, Carter Hamill should have done better with just McLaughlin to beat from eight yards out when he fired wide, while Toms Rutkis forced the Hull netminder into a glove save low down to his left in the 15th minute.

Chilcott was called for cross-checking in the 17th minute, forcing Hull onto the penalty kill again and they would have been two goals adrift had McLaughlin not excelled to deny Corey McEwen when 1-on-1.

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The second period took a while to get going, McLaughlin properly tested for the first time in the 27th minute when Rio Grinell-Parke’s back-handed effort from just inside the left edge of the right circle forced him into a stick save.

It was a crucial moment when, seconds later, Hull hauled themselves level, Bobby Chamberlain the man in the right place at the right time to force the puck home from close-range at 27.00.

As the building eventually quietened down, Ulrick was denied on a wraparound shortly after, while good approach play by Sobchak and Chamberlain set up Svec but he couldn’t squeeze the puck home from a tight angle.

Just after the halfway mark, Toms Rutkis put the Lightning ahead for a second time - again from close range - at 31.27.

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Just over five minutes later, the Seahawks were given an opportunity to draw level when Tim Wallace was sent to the box for a check to the head.

The penalty was just under a minute old when Hull took that opportunity, Svec taking the puck from Ulrick at the top of the right circle and unleashing a rocket that went through Hedley to make it 2-2 at 36.50.

That’s how it looked like staying going into the second intermission, but there was to be another twist.

Ulrick was sent to the box on a tripping call at 38.43 but with only 28 seconds of the penalty served the net was bustling again, but it wasn’t McLaughlin’s.

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As a Lighting attack broke down, Bartholomew was quick to release Sobchak in the neutral zone from where he sped clear before skilfully back-handing the puck over Hedley’s left shoulder and into the roof of the net for a short-handed strike timed at 39.11.

It wasn’t long into the third that the teams were level again, however, Herrman driving down the right before putting the brakes on before cutting inside and beating McLaughlin over his left shoulder at 41.54.

The quietest period of the game then followed, almost as if both teams were happy with being all-square.

But when Bonner leapt off the bench to take an inch-perfect pass from Sobchak, momentum was with the home side again as he went five-hole on Hedley to make it 4-3 at 49.24.

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A one-goal lead going into the second leg on Tuesday would have been welcomed by Seahawks head coach Matty Davies, but it was the visitors who left the building with an advantage after a mad six-second period saw them score twice.

A seemingly soft tripping call on Salem left the hosts on the penalty kill at 54.07 and, eventually, the extra man told for the Lightning, Wallace switching the play from left to right from where Herrman’s one-time pass found Dillon Lawrence who steered it past McLaughlin at 55.46.

The Sehawks had barely had time to recover before they found themselves trailing, the puck falling kindly to Grinell-Parke, who found himself on a 2-on-1 before electing to go it alone and pick his spot past a helpless MCLaughlin.

Tempting though it was to chase for another equaliser, Hull were aware there were another three periods to play and so had to be careful not to push hard, conscious that they could leave the door open for Milton Keynes to increase their lead.

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