LIGHTNING took a huge step towards securing a place in the semi finals of the English Premier Cup with their first four point weekend since October 23 after defeating Sheffield Steeldogs and Peterborough Phantoms.
With the Steeldogs’ clash also counting for points in the Cup table, a victory was vital to keep Nick Poole’s men in contention for the last four – they currently occupy top spot, but could slip to fifth after the remaining two games.
However, they do have much cause for optimism with a first win of the season over Steeldogs on Saturday in a bruising match which they won 3-2. They then followed that up with a welcome 4-2 success at Peterborough on Sunday.
Phantoms will no doubt be looking for quick revenge when they visit Planet Ice on Saturday at 7pm, ahead of Lightning’s second visit of the campaign to Telford Tigers on Sunday at 5.30pm.
The Steeldogs game marked the return from injury of captain Adam Carr and there was no doubt that the team had missed his influence, especially on the second line.
However, Lightning suffered another injury blow when Grant McPherson had to leave the ice after being boarded by Steve Duncombe in the fourth minute and did not return.
Sheffield – no doubt encouraged by their hard man player coach, Andre Payette, brought a physical approach to their game.
But, perhaps stupidly, it was Payette who was to blame for wrecking any chance of a last gasp equaliser when he was given an extra two minutes in the sin bin after he and Lewis Christie clashed with less than 30 seconds remaining.
At that stage Sheffield had withdrawn netminder Ben Bowns for the extra skater but the penalties disrupted their offensive threat and Lightning were able to hang on.
Sheffield took the lead after 6mins 26secs as Janis Ozolins’ shot appeared to bounce up into the net after hitting goalie Alex Mettam’s pads.
The first period ended with the visitors 1-0 in front – and Payette in the penalty box on a 10 minute misconduct call after an altercation with Michael Wales who received an identical penalty.
A great start to the second session saw Adam Brittle level for the home side on 22mins 4secs, but Steeldogs quickly hit back when Pavel Gomeniuk unleashed a power blast from the blue line. The puck was redirected by Stuart Brittle for Greg Wood to finish off.
Once more Lightning came back with Leigh Jamieson able to manoeuvre himself into space to beat Bowns at 31mins 12secs.
A super rocket blast from Christie from over the blue line then defeated Bowns to give Lightning the lead 47 seconds from the end of the middle session.
Although Sheffield fought hard to get back into it in the third period, Lightning remained in control to take the points.
On Sunday it was Lightning who made the better start at Peterborough with Jamieson scoring just 24 seconds after face off.
The visitors lost Blaz Emersic soon after when he was thrown out of the game on a high stick call – his Phantoms opponent, Canadian Jeff Glowa, injured and taking no further part in proceedings.
Luke Ferrara equalised for Peterborough on 11mins 19secs and it remained 1-1 at the first break. It was not until late in the second session that Matt Towalski set up Wales to put Lightning back in the lead at 36mins 17secs.
Phantoms’ recent recruit Richard Bentham got the assist when Robbie Brown – also a new signing – got his first goal for the team to tie things up after 53mins 5secs.
But home fans’ hearts were broken – twice – as Jamie Line got his first goal for Lightning after 54mins 59secs. The shot was remarkable for the fact that it was fired from centre ice and keeper Damian King appeared to have it covered before it bounced past him.
With 19 seconds remaining, Carr capped a great weekend for Lightning when he added the fourth goal from Juraj Gracik’s pass.
>> MK Thunder snapped a three game losing streak to beat defending champions Wightlink Raiders in a 5-4 thriller at the Thunderdome on Sunday.
The Isle of Wight based outfit, who lifted the league trophy last season, opened the scoring at 7m 38s when captain Damon Larter shot through traffic to beat netminder Dave Cassidy.
But their lead was short lived as Mark Turner grabbed his first goal for Thunder, converting a powerplay effort at 12m 24s.
Raiders took the lead again five minutes into the second period through Joe Rand, but again Thunder hit back quickly, this time through defenceman Dave Coffey who managed to evade their defence and coolly converted Jamie Randall’s pass to tie the game.
Connor Goode then gave the hosts the lead following a goal mouth scramble, but this time it was Raiders who respond quickly as Steve Gosset found the net three minutes later.
A mistake by Raiders’ defence then allowed Harrison Goode to restore Thunder’s lead a minute before the second break to set up a tense final period.
Raiders player/coach Jeremy Cornish found space and fired past Cassidy to tie the game with just under three minutes to go.
But Raiders’ relief was short lived as this time Thunder’s own player/coach Simon Howard got the winner just 30 seconds later, blasting the puck past Wightlink goalie Liam McAllister to record the team’s third powerplay goal of the evening.
Despite desperate attempts from Raiders to get an equaliser, Thunder held firm in the face of increasing pressure to wrap up a memorable victory.