Swindon through to last after Kostal' last-minute penalty
5:30am Monday 31st March 2014 in By Michael Reeves, Deputy sports editor
JAN Kostal fired Swindon Wildcats into the EPL play-off finals weekend as he hand a hand in all three goals at Milton Keynes Lightning.
Cats came into the second leg of this quarter-final clash trailing 3-2, however, the former Czech Republic international played in both Aaron Nell and Henri Sandvik at the Skydome before he struck a penalty in the dying stages of the match to seal stunning 3-1 victory for Ryan Aldridge’s men and send them through 5-4 on aggregate.
Knowing that they were behind in the tie, Cats, started the second leg with a nervous edge, chasing for their worth but they could not find a way through a resilient Lightning defence and an in-form netminder in Stephen Wall.
And without Sam Bullas, who injured his ankle during Saturday’s defeat, Cats were up against it. They were forced to shoot from range with Aku Pekkarinen and Jonas Hoog coming closest for the visitors in the opening two periods.
With so much at stake, this quarter-final clash was beginning to boil over in the second period and none more so when Cats’ Sam Smith and Lightning’s Leigh Jamieson both received a lengthy spell in the sin-bin for attempted spearing.
With this second-leg all-square going into the final period, Cats finally brought the tie level on 47.08 when Nell slammed the puck home to send the visiting fans into hysterics after he was played in by Kostal.
Sandvik fired Cats into the lead in the tie on 49.57 when he tucked away Kostal’s pass to make it 2-0 on the night, but Lightning’s man-of-the-match Tom Carlon looked to have sent this tie into overtime when he struck on 57.58 to silence Cats and finally beat the visitors man of the match Stevie Lyle.
However when Kostal was brought down in front of the Lightning goal ready to shoot on 59.33, he had the chance to fire Cats into finals weekend. A chance he took with aplomb, slipping the puck past Wall.
In Cats’ 3-2 first-leg defeat, the first period was a full-bloodied affair with both teams going full throttle to try and gain an early advantage, but it ended goalless.
Lightning took the lead early in the second period when Leigh Jamieson fired the puck beyond Lyle on 22.54 following a lapse of concentration in Cats defence.
Nell drilled the hosts level on 24.22 when he got on the end of Floyd Taylor’s perfectly placed pass.
Hoog gave Cats plenty to cheer about on 37.15 when he put his side into the lead after firing beyond Wall.
But the third period belonged to the visitors as they punished Cats inability to keep control of the puck.
Janne Jokila pulled Lightning level on 44.33 after he put away Stanislav Lascek’s pass.
The killer blow came on 49.45 as Lascek gave the visitors the all-important lead after he was played in by Michael Farn.
Cats piled on the pressure in the dying stages of the play-off clash as they looked to pull level but they could not find a way past Wall.