LIGHTNING will end the English Premier League campaign in fifth position whatever the outcome of their final two games, and will go into the end of season play-offs in poor shape.
Nick Poole’s side experienced a weekend of contrasting fortunes in double header home fixtures against Manchester Phoenix and Basingstoke Bison, but ultimately lost both as they continued their disappointing form of the last couple of months.
The city side were beaten by the odd goal in an 11 goal thriller against champions in waiting Phoenix - who now need just one point to take the title - before the following day Lightning could have no complaints about their 6-3 defeat at the hands of Bison.
While the Phoenix clash could have gone either way - indeed the lead changed hands no less than four times - Lightning weren’t at the races against Bison who they now face in the quarter finals of the championship play-offs on April 2 and 3.
Lightning made a great start against Phoenix when Michael Wales put them ahead after just 40 seconds on Saturday at Planet Ice before the table toppers drew level on a powerplay with a long range Pavel Gomeniuk strike at 5mins 37secs.
A Ross Green blue line effort put the hosts back in front after 14mins 18secs to give Lightning the edge at the first break. But it didn’t last long into the second, with Marcus Kristofferson firing in from distance on 21mins 2secs, although Grant McPherson soon got Lightning’s third, netting on 22mins 51secs.
The visitors were called for an icing infringement but it failed to prevent Kristofferson from being able to beat Lightning goalkeeper Barry Hollyhead with the clock at 26mins 13secs, and the Swede put his side in front after 29mins 55secs
Lightning quickly hit back as Blaz Emersic was given plenty of time and space to make it 4-4 after 30mins 47secs. Then when Curtis Huppe was penalised for tripping McPherson, it was the Scot who gave Lightning back the lead on the powerplay on 35mins 34secs.
With a total of six goals in the second period alone, the match seemed to be heading for a big score, but instead there were just two goals in the third session as Tony Hand equalised 16 seconds in for Phoenix before a Joe Miller goal sealed the win for his side on 54mins 30secs.
Incredibly Lightning’s five goals came from only 18 shots on goal while Manchester bagged their six from 30.
The next day Bison chalked up a 3-0 lead before Lightning even got going - and even then they did they lacked the intensity of 24 hours earlier.
It was only Bison’s second win of the campaign against the city side, and when Wales was called for tripping Viktor Kubenko it was Kubenko who got the first goal on the resulting powerplay on 1min 55secs.
The Hampshire outfit doubled their lead on 17mins 28secs when Tony Redmond found the net and the visitors took just 20 seconds to punish Lightning further when Leigh Jamieson was sent to the sin bin for tripping - Ciaran Long scoring on 28mins 25secs.
Lightning were their own worst enemies though as when afforded powerplays - they had three in the second session alone, albeit one was brief - but they were far too shot shy, instead looking for the perfect opportunity.
They did get a goal back though as Monir Kalgoum found the net on 30mins 48secs when the sides were even handed. However, it didn’t take Bison long to respond as they restored their three goal lead through a second Long goal 59 seconds later, the Lightning defence going completely AWOL.
Poole registered a well taken goal on 42mins exactly, but again Bison replied with a Ben Davies’ goal that went in off Hollyhead’s back at 44mins 10secs.
Goal six for Bison also came from Davies after 49mins 10secs, before Gary Clarke grabbed what was somewhat of a consolation goal 1min 24secs later to make it 6-3 to the visitors.
After a poor couple of weeks Lightning will be hoping to make amends and gain momentum for the quarter final clash when they head to Basingstoke on Saturday, face off 6.30pm. They then finish the regular league campaign with a home game against Slough Jets on Sunday at 5.30pm.
MK Thunder and Streatham Redskins enjoyed an entertaining 2-2 draw at the High Road rink in south London on Sunday.
Thunder were without their Slovak forward Maros Stefanco and defenceman Simon Howard as they faced a side sitting where they want to be in the English National League - the play-off places.
Ross Bowers put the visitors in front before Streatham hit back to lead 2-1. However, Thunder got the winner - Lee Featherstone set up Bowers to score and earn his side a much needed win in their push for the top eight.