RYAN Aldridge believes Wildcats handed MK Lightning three early Christmas presents in last night’s 5-2 defeat at the Link Centre.
Swindon were level at 2-2 with less than six minutes to go of the EPL contest, but several goals in the closing stages ensured they came away from the weekend point-less.
Head coach Aldridge said: “I think we fought hard for 60 minutes, but we just gave away a game again. We gift-wrapped three of the goals.
“Especially in the first period, I thought we were going to win. It’s just that mental focus.
“We have to play panic hockey for us to be successful and we did that when we came out, but then towards the end of the game we got a little bit too comfortable with ourselves and made silly mistakes.”
Swindon’s positive start was rewarded at 2.52 when a simple square pass by the returning Matias Perkkio arrived at the feet of Aaron Nell and he flicked high into the net.
Dean Skinns made a solid double save including from Grant McPherson on the follow-up, before the hosts spurned two powerplay chances to go further in front, both handed to them by former Wildcats man Michael Farn.
D-man Jan Melichar had arguably the best chance during this spell but after steaming in late on, directed past the right upright.
Then, with both sides down a man after Ross Bowers and Shane Moore were binned, a Nell shot whistled past the post and Blaz Emersic immediately made Swindon pay, assisted by Kamil Tvrdek (12.10).
The action then became bitty and Milton Keynes seemed to profit from this, grabbing the equaliser at 18.50, as skipper Adam Carr’s pass towards the net was flicked over Skinns’ pad by player-coach Nick Poole.
Much of the second period was characterised by Lightning pressure without any end product, as both the Swindon defence and Skinns stood firm.
The sucker punch arrived on the powerplay at 30.16, as Hoog’s shot was blocked by netminder Stephen Wall and a half-hearted clearance only found Lee Richardson, who fired home superbly on the angle.
No less than four two-minute penalties were awarded in a stop-start seven-minute spell at the end of the period, but no goals were scored and the unfortunate Paul Swindlehurst was the main talking point after taking a puck full in the face from point-blank range.
In the third Milton Keynes continued to look the more threatening, but Swindon fans were given renewed hope with a late powerplay.
However, when Michal Kapicka and Emersic skated into each other and the latter felt the impact more keenly, the home player was harshly sent to the box by referee Matthew Thompson.
Within 30 seconds the Lightning had made the most of their fortune, as Skinns spilled a shot and Carr was there to dink into the net (54.23).
Tvrdek added to the hosts’ misery at 55.03, this time on the powerplay, as MK were by now back to full strength.
At 55.34, the game was well and truly finished off by Emersic, who broke clear one-one-one and finished confidently past Skinns’ right pad.
But it was the decision to send Kapicka to the box late on that many saw as the turning point of the game.
“Neither player really saw each other, they both had their heads down,” said D-man Shane Moore.
“Unfortunately because their guy came off worse, the ref called it, I’m sure if Kaps went down they would have given Emersic the penalty, and if they had both gone down he wouldn’t have called either.
“But he saw the guy had gone down and unfortunately we’ve been penalised for it.”