LIGHTNING continue to the lead the way at the top of the English Premier League after seeing off the challenge of Basingstoke Bison twice in 24 hours at the weekend, but coach Nick Poole is warning his side against complacency.
Just a solitary Leigh Jamieson short-handed strike was enough to give the team with the meanest defence in the league to date a 1-0 victory in Hampshire on Saturday.
And back at Planet Ice on Sunday, Bison were despatched again with a 4-1 defeat following one of the most complete Lightning displays of the season.
It’s now seven wins from eight for the city side who sit level on points with Slough Jets at the summit, but still have two games in hand. And Poole’s men should extend their already impressive winning run to eight matches this weekend as they face two of the EPL’s strugglers in local rivals Peterborough Phantoms at home on Saturday and Bracknell Bees away on Sunday.
Basingstoke were allowed little time on the puck when they made the trip to Planet Ice last Sunday, and when they did manage to get some decent shots on goal, in-form Lightning netminder Alex Mettam dealt with almost all of them with relative ease.
Indeed it was only a defensive lapse after Mettam had blocked a Marek Dubec shot that allowed 50 year-old Steve Moria the chance to snatch a 56th minute consolation goal for Bison.
Mettam’s performance earned him his fourth man of the match award in six games for Lightning, but they had to settle for joint top of the table after Jets also recorded back-to-back weekend wins.
Despite Lightning’s double win, coach Poole knows there will be no room for complacency when Peterborough visit Planet Ice on Saturday, despite the two sides’ contrasting starts to the season.
Lightning beat their old rivals 7-4 on aggregate in pre-season ‘Ashes’ challenge matches at the start of the season, but the Cambridgeshire side did at least manage to win the second leg, meaning Poole is wary of the threat they pose, despite them sitting bottom of the table.
He said: “It doesn’t matter what a team’s league position is, you can’t sit back and give Phantoms time and space to turn a struggle into a win.
“A momentary lapse of focus in the away leg of the Ashes let them snatch a last minute goal to take a win, and that was disappointing after we had won so dominantly the previous evening.
“That lesson came back to haunt us against Bracknell recently when we took our foot off the gas after building a 3-0 lead.
“One of our targets this season is to win trophies –to do that, we need to stay focused right until the final buzzer so we’re all determined to put that into practice every game.”
The victories against Bison were both achieved despite the absence of two first line forwards, import Juraj Gracik and Brit Adam Brittle, both nursing shoulder injuries. It is hoped they will both be back for the Peterborough clash and for Sunday’s visit to Bracknell Bees.
Jamieson struck after only 13m 27s at Basingstoke on Saturday while Poole was in the sin bin for slashing. As the game progressed it became increasingly physical with both sides picking up numerous penalties – the second period came to an end with three Bison men serving time as well as Adam Carr and Michael Wales for Lightning.
And there were two powerplay chances for the visitors early in the final session but Bison’s penalty kill unit remained resolute.
There was an anxious moment for Lightning though when they were reduced to four skaters with Lewis Christie penalised for a high stick late in the game, but they held on for the single goal win.
The following night Bison fell behind when goalie Matt Colclough failed to hold a Christie powerblast and Matt Towalski snapped up the loose puck to score at 2m 46s.
The extra space afforded by both teams having a player sin binned in final minute of the first period allowed Jamieson to set up Carr for the second goal on 19m 16s.
The penalties carried over into the middle session and it was Lightning again who made the most of them when Christie’s long pass found Carr in space to go one on one with Colclough and beat him just 54s in to make it 3-0.
Basingstoke’s only goal came on the powerplay on 56m 27s when Moria struck after the hosts failed to clear the zone quickly enough.
Colclough was withdrawn for the extra skater with 1m 15s to go and Jamieson took the chance to seal the win at 4-1 with a long shot from almost on the centre line for an empty net goal at 59m 37s.