Bracknell Bees 7 Milton Keynes Lightning 2
MATT FOORD labelled Milan Kostourek “phenomenal” after the forward struck four times against his former employers on Sunday night.
Matt Towalski, Vanya Antonov and Frantisek Bakrlik were also on target for the Bees, who ended a run of five straight defeats with this emphatic victory at the Hive.
The win, along with a polished performance, also saw the hosts produce the perfect response following the 10-2 mauling suffered at Basingstoke Bison the night before, and captain Foord was quick to provide his team-mates with a ringing endorsement.
He said: “Things just seemed to click on Sunday. Smits (player-coach Lukas Smital) was talking after the game and said the minute we got to the rink things just felt different, perhaps not a different approach but the guys felt hungry and everyone jumped on the rope and fought and played with each other.
“The guys worked hard and played well, which is good.
“It was a really difficult night in Basingstoke and obviously things did not go our way and that was frustrating, but on Sunday I think we played really well.
“We have played well at home this year and we wanted to really get back on track, try and win tonight and see if we can get some momentum and climb the table.
“I don’t think anyone had a bad game. If we work hard, work smart and play to our potential every night then we can beat anyone in the league, but we have got to find a way of doing that night in, night out.”
A bright start from Bees, which saw Bakrlik and Smital both go close before Towalski was denied by Lightning netminder Dean Skinns at his near post, was rewarded in the sixth minute.
Kostourek and Antonov combined well to set up fellow forward Towalski, who broke the deadlock when placing a crisp shot into the corner.
The lead was doubled on 15 minutes when Towalski and Lewis Turner neatly worked the puck through the middle, where Kostourek produced a composed finish.
The same player then brilliantly carved out an opportunity of his own making, but having skipped past a number of MK challenges, his deft chip dropped the wrong side of a post.
With Lightning’s Edward Knaggs sitting out hooking call, however, Antonov bundled the puck home for a 3-0 lead. The assists went to David Savage and Kostourek, but it did appear as though an opponent may have got the decisive touch to beat Skinns.
Either way, Bracknell were now in control of proceedings, but that was also in no small part down to Alex Mettam.
Standing as the hosts’ last line of defence, the ‘keeper produced several smart stops during the opening 20 minutes to deny Michael Farn and Bobby Chamberlain before getting a glove behind a Leigh Jamieson strike when the D-man looked certain to score.
Despite being a man light at the start of the second session after Turner picked up a tripping penalty, Bracknell should have extended their lead to four goals when Bakrlik sent Kostourek on his way, but Skinns would have the final say on this occasion and did well to deny his former team-mate.
Yet when he was put clean through once more in the 22nd minute, this time by Towalski, Kostourek made no mistake, showing great composure to fool Skinns with a deke before stroking the puck under his grasp.
The Lightning goal continued to live a charmed life, and just 54 seconds it was 5-0.
And it was another effort to come straight out of the Czech Republic.
Smital’s rasping drive from over on the right wing was too hot for Skinns to handle, and he could only palm the puck in the direction of an unmarked Bakrlik, who swept home at the far post to put Bees out of reach.
This proved to be Skinns’ final involvement in proceedings, as he was replaced by Jordan Marr – much to his frustration.
Now only playing for pride, MK were able to produce a spell of possession in Bracknell territory, and would find themselves on a five-v-three powerplay when Savage (boarding) and Jan Bendik (hooking) were sent to the sin-bin respectively.
Despite holding out for some 53 seconds, Bees’ resolve was broken when captain Adam Carr found a gap between Mettam and his near post.
The scoreline would remain at 5-1 going into the final stanza, where Mettam was the busier of the two keepers during the early exchanges, getting behind strikes from Lewis Hook, Markku Tahtinen and Jamieson as MK sought to work away at a four-goal deficit.
But just like back in the second period, the visitors were once again undone by two more quick-fire goals.
Putting the result beyond any doubt was Kostourek, who latched on to a Bendik pass to complete the hat-trick in clinical fashion on 45:28.
And if a dream night for the Czech was not already going well enough, the import took his individual tally for the evening to four when finishing with aplomb after Bracknell had neatly worked an attack down the left flank minutes later.
MK did have the puck in the net once more when Glenn Billing produced a first-time finish after the Buckinghamshire side managed to turn over possession behind the hosts’ goal, but the night belonged to Bees – and Kostourek in particular.
“I thought Milan (Kostourek) was phenomenal,” added Foord.
“It was meant to be for him and he was absolutely incredible. I thought that whole line of Milan, Towalski and Vanya Antonov played really well.
“Another guy who I thought played well was Mettsy (Mettam). In the first and second period he kept us in it and really did make some key saves which allowed us to go on and win – and win like we did.
“I think, individually, everybody put a shift in, but obviously Milan’s was the standout tonight.
“He played really well tonight and it is good to see him putting the puck in the net and it makes him a better player when he is playing with that confidence and a smile on his face.”
Bracknell have just the one game this weekend, hosting Swindon Wildcats at the Hive on Sunday (6pm)