LIGHTNING’S frail away form continued on Sunday when they went down 3-1 at Slough Jets – with all three opposition goals coming from former club players.
Lightning have enjoyed just three four-point weekends this season. While their home results have been impressive, their away record in the English Premier League has cost them any realistic chance of catching leaders Guildford Flames, or indeed second placed Basingstoke Bison.
On Saturday Nick Poole’s men chalked up their fifth successive home victory with a 4-2 win against Telford Tigers, but it has to be said that Lightning were not at the top of their game until the latter stages.
There was a warm welcome from the Planet Ice crowd for former goalie Barry Hollyhead, signed by his home town Tigers as cover for the out of action Declan Ryan.
And for the first period at least it looked as though the hosts were being particularly charitable to the former loyal servant – managing just five shots on target, none of which would test a netminder of Hollyhead’s calibre.
Lightning were without top import forward Kamil Tvrdek who was ruled out with a sickness bug. And with normal stand-in Connor Goode engaged elsewhere with MK Thunder, it meant that Blaz Emersic and Adam Carr were called on to double shift with the first and third lines.
While Tigers fired in 13 shots on goalie Stephen Wall, only blue line efforts from Tom Watkins and Jaroslav Kruzik, both on powerplays, and one from new signing Tomas Karpov were anything to trouble the home net.
After such a low key first period the game needed a goal to spark it into life. It eventually came when Michael Farn fed Ross Bowers who found a gap to the right of Hollyhead on 25mins 50secs. It made amends for a miss by Bowers seconds earlier when he took a long pass from Adam Carr but failed to hit the target.
Just after the midway point, Lightning had the chance to double their advantage when they were given a powerplay as Scott McKenzie was sin binned for hooking. However, there was too much passing without getting into the danger zone and so the man advantage was wasted.
Tigers did better on the powerplay soon after – following an interference call on Nick Chinn – equalising through Tim Burrows from close range on 33mins 5secs.
The visitors then dealt a further blow to the home side, taking the lead after 37mins 37secs through Luke Brittle – for some reason wearing the absent Tomas Janak’s shirt.
But before the break, brother Adam equalised with an unassisted goal 25 seconds from the buzzer while Lightning were short handed with Lewis Christie serving time for boarding.
Lightning finally took control of the game in the third session with Grant McPherson’s blast which rebounded off the back board being back sticked into the goal by Chinn after 43mins 35secs.
Emersic then put the game out of Tigers’ reach after he went up the left and found a gap between Hollyhead and the post at 47mins 16secs – much to the relief of the home fans.
The following day Lightning were first off the mark at The Hangar when Brittle set up Leigh Jamieson to register after 15mins 59secs.
Lightning survived an early penalty in the second period for having too many men on the ice, and then couldn’t take advantage of a five on three powerplay as former city player Matt Towalski and then goalie Gregg Rockman were both penalised.
It came back to haunt them as Lukas Zatopek was called for hooking – former Lightning defenceman Mindy Kieras levelling for Jets on the powerplay at 29mins 54secs.
By the second break the home side were ahead. This time Darius Pliskauskas was the provider for Michael Wales – another city old boy – to score at 35mins 14secs while Carr was in the sin bin for holding.
Although Lightning outshot Jets to the tune of 9-4 in the third period, they were unable to find a way past Rockman, even when they had a powerplay as Adam Greener was sent to the penalty box for tripping.
Lightning called a timeout with just over a minute to go and then withdrew goalie Alex Mettam for the extra – thus providing Jets with an empty net goal opportunity, duly taken by a third old boy, Towalski, at 59mins 18secs, putting a slightly unfair score on a fairly even game.
Next up for fourth placed Lightning is a weekend double-header with sixth in the table Swindon Wildcats who visit Planet Ice on Saturday night.