SWINDON were narrowly defeated 2-1 by Milton Keynes at the Link Centre last night as a rescheduled clash from last month was played out in low-key fashion.
Missing brothers Loris and Floyd Taylor as well as long-term absentees Lee Richardson and Jamie Hayes, Swindon were forced to play D-man Paul Swindlehurst as a forward to compensate.
MK had all the early pressure but the hosts almost took the lead when Finnish import Henri Sandvik lashed a wristshot against the post.
The Lightning deservedly went in front at 9.04 through the not-so-retired Nick Poole, who shot home from Kamil Tvrdek and Janne Jokila.
Swindon fended off a double powerplay at the end of the period but in truth they were slightly fortunate to only be a goal down at the first break.
Period two provided plenty of nervous moments for the injury-ravaged Wildcats.
First netminder Dean Skinns appeared to take a puck in the face from the stick of Tvrdek and then Swindlehurst fell to the floor after high sticks from Leigh Jamieson.
Both home players ultimately carried on, but Swindon’s wish to breach Stephen Wall’s goalline was not looking much more likely.
They did crank up the pressure after the halfway point and Aaron Nell scuffed wide with his team shorthanded, the skipper also going close with a slapshot while Jonas Hoog flashed wide of the post.
A lengthy delay to remove Sandvik’s blood from the centre of the ice was the only other notable event for an unspectacular second period.
Matters worsened for the Wildcats just 13 seconds into the final period. With Skinns on his knees, Jamieson stabbed away at the puck and eventually forced it over the line, the assists coming from Blaz Emersic and Adam Brittle.
However, the fight was far from done as just over five minutes later, Cats finally got off the mark. Head coach Ryan Aldridge hustled out wide and sent the puck inside for Sandvik, who duly converted in front of the net (45.24).
There was little hint of a comeback after that, the game drifting to its conclusion in decidedly eventless fashion.
Swindlehurst went off for slashing in the closing minutes and that more or less put paid to the hosts’ hopes of grabbing an equaliser.
Brittle missed a golden chance to make it 3-1 in the closing seconds when he shot wide of the empty net in the dying seconds, but ultimately it did not matter for the Lightning.
Swindon head coach Aldridge said afterwards: “I don’t think we played our best tonight, if I’m honest. I think we played lethargic but I think they probably did too.
“I was getting frustrated at myself and the team, I tried to get my legs going, but it was a very lethargic game.
“They were the better team in the first two periods and we were the better team in the third maybe, but we just made too many silly mistakes.
“Swinny getting that penalty the last two minutes didn’t help because we had to play the last two minutes short-handed.
“It’s difficult to shout and scream but I don’t think we played hard enough.”