Lightning’s hopes of winning the English Premier League Cup for the first time in their history are hanging by a thread after they suffered a 4-1 defeat in the first leg of the final against Basingstoke Bison at Coventry Skydome on Wednesday.
Lightning were staring defeat in the face after Bison took a 3-1 lead just after the half way mark.
From then on the hosts were hardly able to make any impression in front of goal.
Bison took the lead on 4mins 2secs when former MK player Michael Wales and Andrew Melachrino advanced with only Ross Green in defence. Wales made the pass for Melachrino to fire into the roof of the net.
Lightning hit back quickly when Blaz Emersic was the provider for Tom Carlon who emerged from behind the net and tucked the puck away at second attempt on 5mins 32secs - goalie Dean Skinns stopping but not holding his first shot.
Ross Bowers was penalised for interference in the 12th minute but shorthanded Lightning kept Bison at bay.
As the period entered its final stages Skinns was put to the test by a Michael Farn effort which he kept out with his legs.
Leigh Jamieson, set up by Adam Carr, then had a fine shot before Carr saw his effort almost beat Skinns. Somehow the puck stayed out.
Bison stamped their mark on the game in the second period when Lightning spent much of the time defending shorthanded spells.
The visitors, perhaps unsurprisingly, dominated the play, outshooting Lightning to the tune of 22-3. That Bison tally was more than Lightning had in the whole game.
Miroslav Vantroba restored Bison’s lead on 22mins 12secs while Lightning had Grant McPherson in the sin bin for a high stick. Goalie Stephen Wall appeared to be unsighted as Vantroba struck from the blue line with a rocket blast.
The hosts were reduced to three skaters as Jokila was called for hooking and then Lewis Christie was given 12 minutes for checking to the head.
Lightning survived those penalties but could not prevent Bison from adding to their tally when McPherson was back in the penalty box, together with Lukas Zatopek, for roughing and delaying the game respectively, in the 31st minute.
At the same time Bison had Aaron Connelly also sin binned for roughing but, with a man advantage, Carl Graham made the pass from which Melachrino beat Wall on 32mins 45secs.
Lightning’s deficit grew further less than three minutes later when Joe Greener supplied Ciaran Long to shoot home from the left of goal on 35mins 9secs.
From that moment onwards it became an even more frustrating night for Lightning and their fans.
Even though they managed to increase their shots on goal in the third session too few of them were anywhere near good enough to trouble Skinns.
The hosts had a five on three powerplay when Matt Selby and Joe Baird were penalised in the first five minutes but Lightning hardly had a shot on goal.
Things got worse for Lightning with 11 minutes remaining when
Jamieson was given a 12 minute penalty for checking from behind - ending his game. Shortly afterwards Kurt Reynolds of Bison committed an identical offence against Jordan Cownie and received the same punishment.
Skinns was forced to make saves from Bowers and Zatopek in the latter stages as Nick Poole’s desperately sought a morale boosting end to the game. It was not to be and Bison start the second leg on Wednesday next week with a three goal lead.