LIGHTNING’S hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League seem to be fading fast following three successive defeats - two of them against in form Slough Jets.
But it was perhaps the 2-1 loss to Peterborough Phantoms at Planet Ice on Saturday that was the most disappointing as Lightning came up against a brick wall in the form of goalie Stephen Wall who proved almost unbeatable on the night.
In fact Lightning probably could have thrown the kitchen sink at him and the Peterborough keeper would have caught it. And with a solid defence in front of him, the hosts’ chances of great shots on goal were reduced.
Meanwhile Jets, who defeated Lightning twice with scores of 5-3, now look odds-on favourites to win the end of season play-offs. They have gone eight games undefeated - with 11 wins in 13 - since former Elite League star Adam Calder replaced new Lightning signing Blaz Emersic at The Hangar.
Emersic is now in Lightning’s colours but his goal scoring record cannot match that of Calder who has netted 19 goals in 16 games.
Lightning will be especially unhappy to have gone down to Jets on Sunday, having fought their way back to tie the game at 3-3 with less than five minutes remaining.
Jets got off to a fine start when Calder set up Joe Greener to score on 1min 54secs, but Lightning were able to hit back with a Nick Poole strike at 7mins 14secs.
Just over four minutes later the home team edged ahead again as the deadly duo of Doug Sheppard and Calder got to work - with the former setting up the ex-Coventry Blaze man for the first goal of his hat-trick on 11mins 33secs.
Calder then extended Slough’s lead 5mins 40secs into the second period before Lukas Zatopek got one back for Lightning on the powerplay at 36mins 5secs.
The visitors were unable to make anything of two penalties on Jets players, but equalised at 48mins 42secs when Monir Kalgoum found the net.
However it was all in vain as Calder completed his hat-trick with 43 seconds remaining. With Lightning goalie Barry Hollyhead withdrawn for the extra skater, Jets then added a fifth to their tally when Sheppard scored in an empty net with 12 seconds to go.
Last Wednesday’s clash with Jets at Planet ice saw Ross Green put the home team ahead after 8mins 27secs - his first league goal for the club.
Lightning led 1-0 at the first break but that was soon cancelled out by Slava Koulikov’s goal 31 seconds after the restart.
Once more the city side went in front when Leigh Jamieson was on target at 24mins 10secs, only for Jets to equalise 1min 14secs afterwards - again Koulikov was the scorer.
Darius Pliskauskas then gave Slough the lead for the first time on 35mins 32secs. And the game slipped further away from Poole’s men when first Shaun Thompson and then Pliskauskas scored at 42mins 25secs and 44mins 57secs.
Zatopek claimed a third goal for the hosts at 54mins 31secs but that wasn’t enough to swing the game in their favour.
Peterborough enjoyed a perfect start on Saturday as Maris Ziedins set up Jeff Glowa to register after just 25 seconds.
That allowed them to adopt a more defensive stance, and in turn Lightning were often thwarted in producing telling shots on target - although Wall played his part.
Lightning totally dominated the second period - outshooting the visitors 21-2 - but had nothing to show for their efforts.
It wasn’t Lightning’s night, and Luke Ferrara sent Glowa away to beat keeper Alex Mettam for the visitors’ second goal at 46mins 6secs. And it was not until 1min 22secs from the final buzzer that Emersic finally beat Wall.
Lightning withdrew Mettam for the extra skater and appeared to have scored an equaliser with 42 seconds remaining, but referee Matt Thompson ruled Jamieson’s effort had not crossed the line.
This weekend Lightning face Swindon Wildcats twice - they go to The Links Centre on Saturday at 5.45pm and host the Wiltshire team on Sunday at 5.30pm, but will need quite a turnaround in fortunes to do better than a fifth place this season.