Lightning record first four point weekend of the season

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Battling Lightning demonstrated they are a better team than their league position indicates when they dealt a shock defeat to second in the table Basingstoke Bison on Saturday.

Bison had only lost twice previously this season while Lightning, forced to play their first three home games at Coventry, were struggling in second from bottom in the English Premier League.

The victory lifted the city side up one place in the table.

And on Sunday boosted their chances of qualifying for the semi finals of the English Challenge Cup with a 7-4 victory at lower league Chelmsford Chieftains - recording their first four point weekend of the season. It put them joint top of their group

The 6-4 against Bison win didn’t come without some drama though as Lightning saw a 4-1 advantage at the end of the second session evaporate in just over five minutes early in the final period when a resurgent Bison hit back with three goals from Joe Greener, Grant Rounding and Miroslav Vantroba.

A ten minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Lightning’s Milan Kostourek in the final minute of the middle period proved significant as those Bison goals all came while he was in the sin bin, necessitating line reshuffles. Once he returned the hosts regained control of the game.

Home fans were buoyed by announcement during the game that former Lightning enforcer Chris Wiggins has returned to the team from Bracknell Bees - filling the spot left vacant by the departing Tom Carlon. Wiggins is due to make his debut this weekend.

It was Kostourek who opened Lightning’s account on Saturday, on the powerplay at 6mins 41secs while Bison’s Aaron Connolly was sitting out a slashing penalty.

The home outfit doubled their advantage when Petr Horava supplied Stan Lascek to register from close range on 14mins 17secs to give the team a 2-0 lead at the break.

Lightning wasted no time in adding to the total with a Horava blue line blast for a second powerplay goal 26secs after Bison’s Joe Baird was sin binned for delaying the game at 27mins 32secs.

Nick Poole’s charges were reduced to three skaters thanks to two penalty calls on Grant McPherson for boarding and Horava for slashing. It proved too much to defend with Bison scoring through Ciaran Long on the powerplay at 30mins 31secs.

Less than two minutes later Lightning regained their advantage with a fantastic top shelf strike from distance by Leigh Jamieson on 32mins 24secs.

Within 2mins 15secs of the start of the third period Greener cut the gap as Lightning looked hesitant.

Rounding beat goalie Stephen Wall to make it 4-3 on 45mins 14secs - prompting a Lightning timeout - before Vantroba caused more concern with the equaliser at 47mins 43secs.

However, Nidal Phillips sent Jordan Cownie away to beat goalie Dean Skinns at 50mins 34secs to restore Lightning’s lead. Kostourek finished off Bison with an unassisted goal at 57mins 37secs.

The highlight of the downing of Chelmsford was the hat-trick by locally trained Ross Bowers - a player who has found it difficult to find a regular line spot this campaign.

Visiting Lightning fans hoping to see former Lightning player, Lukas Zatopek in action for his new side were disappointed as the Czech defenceman was injured.

Chieftains opened the scoring after just 2mins 6secs when John Connolly set up Michael Ranby to beat goalie Jordan Hedley.

The lead lasted only as long as it took Bowers to register from Grant McPherson’s assist after 9mins 37secs. It was Bowers who was on the mark again at 17mins 17secs - this time with a powerplay effort while the hosts’ captain Julian Smith was sitting out as roughing penalty.

Smith redeemed himself by getting Chieftains back into the game with a goal 1min 1sec into the middle period but he couldn’t prevent his side from going into the second break a goal behind after Cownie edged the travellers back in front after 35mins 39secs.

The third period belonged to Lightning as they added to their tally 1min 7secs after the restart - Bowers the provider for Michael Farn before Lewis Hook struck 53secs later to make it 5-2.

Only 37 more seconds had elapsed before Bowers completed his hat-trick from Jamieson, with Hook back on target after 44mins 25secs to give the visitors a five goal lead.

However Chieftains were able to give the scoreline an air of respectability with two late strikes from Martin Pecha and Matthew Turner, after 53mins 29secs and 57mins 22secs respectively.