LIGHTNING are now heading for a third or fourth placed finish - at best - in the English Premier League after dropping four more points at the weekend.
For the second time in the space of just a fortnight, Guildford Flames came, saw and conquered Lightning at Planet Ice with a 4-2 victory, and on Sunday the city side returned from Manchester Phoenix with a 5-4 loss - that after going 5-0 behind.
Even the return of sharp-shooter Monir Kalgoum after injury could not produce the required result against Guildford on Saturday. Encounters between the teams are normally fast paced ones - but, until the final session, this was often a pretty slow speed affair with Lightning unable to make any sort of impact.
However, until Flames struck twice in 17 seconds in the 17th minute. Lightning seemed to be at least matching their title rivals. But when Joe Graham and Michael Wales were despatched to the sin bin for separate infractions each team had only four skaters on the ice, and it was Flames who made the most of it - Nathan Rempel blasting home at 17mins 34secs.
Lightning were still reeling from that when Canadian Rempel was sent away in space by David Longstaff to score the second at 17mins 51secs. That was a bitter blow for Lightning, and although Adam Brittle had a great chance saved early in the second session, things got worse when Longstaff again supplied Rempel who was able to break away unchallenged to close in and beat goalie Barry Hollyhead for the third goal at 37mins 47secs.
Coach Nick Poole switched Adam Carr into the defence for the final period with his spot up front being taken by Leigh Jamieson. As Lightning sought to raise the tempo it produced the desired result as Jamieson used his size to muscle the puck over the line for Lightning’s first goal after 46mins 43secs.
Jamieson then smashed in Kalgoum’s pass from the left on 48mins 30secs to give his team real hope of a miracle escape. It was not to be though. Just over a minute from the buzzer Hollyhead was replaced by the extra skater, Blaz Emersic.
Unfortunately the visitors were able to turnover the puck and grab an empty net goal scored by Matt Towe at 59mins 9secs following a well worked move involving Martin Masa and Lukas Smital.
On Sunday Phoenix went ahead after just 3mins 28secs as Tony Hand netted, and Curtis Huppe got number two for Manchester after 14mins 25secs.
The situation got even more difficult for Lightning in the second session as they were made to pay for a tripping penalty on Lukas Zatopek - Huppe on target again on the powerplay at 35mins 35secs.
Kristofferson then took the score to 4-0 45 seconds from the second break before Lightning saw a goal chalked off. When James Neil gave Manchester a 5-0 lead with just under 15 minutes remaining it looked like curtains for the visitors.
But then Lightning staged an amazing comeback, sparked by a Emersic goal on 46mins 37secs and continued by Kalgoum with his first goal since his return scored at 51mins 38secs.
Carr then gave his team real hope with the third goal 116 seconds later to make it 5-3, and then converted a penalty shot at 55mins 55secs to narrow the gap to one.
But that was as close as Lightning got with Phoenix hanging on for the win to leave the city side sitting in fifth place in the table and staring up enviously.
On Saturday Lightning have the chance to get their season back on track when Telford Tigers visit Planet Ice at 7pm and on Sunday they’re away to Basingstoke Bison, face off 5.3pm.