Lightning are down but not quite out

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LIGHTNING’S outside hopes of a top two English Premier League finish suffered a major blow on Saturday when they went down 7-4 away at rivals Slough Jets - after battling from 4-1 down to 4-4.

The following day the city side made amends with a 3-2 win over Basingstoke Bison following a penalty shoot out, but they remain stuck in fifth place.

Former Jet Blaz Emersic - who joined Lightning in January - was given a warm reception by Slough fans, but that was as far as the good wishes went with his old side in no mood to give anything away.

After a goalless first period the second was a complete contrast with Jets taking just 29 seconds to go ahead through Adam Calder - Emersic’s replacement.

Lightning hit back with a Gary Clarke strike from Lewis Christie’s set-up after 24mins 40secs but back came Jets only 14 seconds later with Darius Pliskauskas on target. Two more Jets goals on 26mins exactly and 27mins 19secs by Calder and Aaron Connolly then gave the visitors a mountain to climb at 4-1.

But it was not an impossible task as Adam Carr led the fightback with a goal on 29mins 17secs. When Joe Greener was penalised for roughing Leigh Jamieson he took full advantage with the visitors’ third goal on the powerplay at 35mins 33s.

While Jets were still reeling from that, Michael Farn was the supplier as Michael Wales rattled in the equaliser. Lightning’s hopes were destroyed with a trio of third period goals though - the first two coming from Doug Sheppard.

Lightning withdrew Barry Hollyhead in favour of the extra skater as the clock ticked down - a move which backfired when Slava Koulikov banged in a seventh goal with five seconds remaining.

Bison stunned Lightning with two goals in the first six minutes when they visited Planet Ice the following day. It took just 88 seconds for the first penalty to be called - Nick Poole given two minutes for tripping.

From the resulting powerplay Mindy Kieras dumped in a blue line shot, tipped into the net by Nicky Chinn after 2mins 21secs. And the hosts were guilty of poor marking when Ollie Bronnimann made it 2-0 after 5mins 29secs.

But shocked by going behind Lightning fought back and Adam Brittle was able to capitalise when Bison goalie Dean Skinns fumbled the puck to fire home with 9mins 29secs on the clock. Grant McPherson and Carr both had fine efforts saved by Skinns before Hollyhead was called into action to deal with a Callum Best shot.

A clash between Wales and Ciaran Long then saw both spend two minutes in the sin bin. But as Wales emerged from the penalty box he set up Carr for Lightning’s equaliser - the captain’s determination forcing the puck in at 17mins 1secs. At that stage it looked like fans were in for a high scoring evening, but there were no further goals in the middle or third periods - or in overtime.

Lightning stepped up the pressure in the second period with Clarke firing wide of an almost open goal early on. And the home side should have done better when Chinn was given a two minute penalty for slashing Ross Green - despite dominating Lightning failed to produce enough shots.

With no further goals after 65 minutes of play the game went to a penalty shoot out - Carr fired high into the net to score first for Lightning and Hollyhead blocked Bronnimann’s reply. Emersic also scored for MK before Hollyhead pushed Lauko’s shot away to seal the points for Lightning.

This weekend Lightning will be hoping for quick revenge over Guildford Flames who visit at 7pm on Saturday - two weeks ago Flames won 6-3. On Sunday MK have an equally challenging encounter when they go to Manchester Phoenix at 5.30pm.