LIGHTNING struck a double blow to arch rivals Peterborough Phantoms’ hopes of qualifying for the end of season play-offs, even though they failed to win both their games at the weekend.
After seeing off Phantoms with a 4-1 victory at Planet Ice on Saturday, the city team ended up 4-3 losers after overtime at Bracknell Bees on Sunday.
Bees had shocked league champions Guildford Flames with a 6-5 win at the Spectrum Centre a day earlier and the success on Sunday lifted them into the final play-off place – above Phantoms.
The Berkshire outfit must now be odds-on favourites to secure that spot as Phantoms face two tough encounters with league runners-up Manchester Phoenix in the final league games this weekend while Bees would be fancied to take a point or two from their matches against Sheffield Steeldogs and Swindon Wildcats.
It looks like Slough Jets all the way for the next two weekends for Lightning. The two sides clash home and away in the closing English Premier League games of the season – Lightning at home on Saturday and at The Hangar on Sunday.
Jets are currently fourth and Lightning fifth in the league table, and even if those positions are reversed, the teams will still meet in the quarter finals of the play-offs the weekend after.
Slough could still overtake third placed Sheffield Steeldogs, but that target looks an unrealistic one for Nick Poole’s men who would have to take maximum points this weekend while hoping that the south Yorkshire outfit go pointless.
The worst case scenario would be for Jets to move into third as Lightning would then face Sheffield – a team they have, on the whole, struggled against this term.
Lightning will certainly have to step up a gear from that they engaged in beating Phantoms – the outcome not really sealed until Leigh Jamieson’s 49th minute goal gave Lightning a 3-1 lead.
For an encounter between two rivals the game was a strangely muted affair with the first penalty not called until the 27th minute and only 10 minutes handed out in total by referee Dave Cloutman.
It was Phantoms who edged in front after 15mins 29secs when James Ferrara redirected a long Tom Carlon blast from the left past goalie Alex Mettam. But their lead didn’t last long, with Blaz Emersic’s pass taken by Adam Brittle and planted high in the goal beyond Damien King at 17mins 49secs for 1-1 at the first break
The hosts then had a couple of good chances early in the second period with Brittle going close and Nick Poole setting up Ross Green who could not get enough power on his shot. Mettam made a good block from Will Weldon before saving an awkward effort from Joe Graham while Phantoms were on the powerplay with Michael Wales serving that first penalty – for interference – at 27mins 23secs.
The go-ahead goal finally came with 28 seconds to the second buzzer when Emersic was again the provider for Brittle who rounded the netminder to score.
Jamieson put daylight between the two sides thanks to an excellent pass out of defence by Tom Norton for him to collect in the neutral zone and beat King one on one at 49mins exactly.
With 1min 23secs remaining Phantoms called a timeout and took off King for the extra skater. Just 11 seconds later Emersic won the puck in the neutral zone – and despite Lightning being short-handed with Tuomas Tikkanen in the sin bin – he was able to skate away for an empty net goal.
Unfortunately Lightning couldn’t carry that form into Sunday’s trip to Bracknell.