Lightning running out of time to turn things around

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Two amazing goals from man of the match Milan Kostourek helped set Milton Keynes Lightning on course for a well-earned 5-3 win over rivals Peterborough Phantoms at MK Arena on Saturday.

After putting Lightning ahead with a goal from close range on 6mins 21secs the Czech forward smashed home a pair of cracking goals from long range to give his team the edge in a closely fought game.

However, as has been the pattern this season, the city side were unable to follow up with a win on Sunday, losing 5-1 at Manchester Phoenix. It was an encounter that saw Kostourek thrown out on a five minutes plus game penalty in the final minute for roughing, checking to the head and attempted spearing in a clash with former Lightning player Jacob Heron.

Against Phantoms recently signed Canadian Curtis Huppe bagged his first goal for the club and then went on to add an empty net strike which killed any hope Phantoms had of sending the game into overtime after netminder Janis Auzins was withdrawn for the extra skater with 1min 23secs to go.

The Peterborough stopper had to return to the ice when the visitors were penalised for icing, leading to a face off in their own zone, but he left the action again with 23 seconds remaining - allowing Petr Horava to feed Huppe for the blue line decider with 15 seconds left on the clock.

Following Kostourek’s opener Huppe made it 2-0 from close range at 11mins 43secs.

The lead was swiftly wiped out when Auzins made a long clearance to Edgars Bebris to beat goalie Stephen Wall on 16mins 55secs while the visitors were short handed with player coach Slava Koulikov serving two minutes for tripping Huppe.

Thirty-one seconds later it was all square thanks to a blast from defenceman Tom Norton.

Lightning regained the advantage 4mins 41secs into the second period while shorthanded as Chris Wiggins sat out an elbowing penalty.

Lewis Hook released Kostourek to fly up the left and unleash a rocket of a shot which totally eluded Auzins as it pinged the metalwork on his far side as it went in.

The hosts had the puck in the net in the final minute of the session but referee Stephen Matthews rightly saw that it had been kicked in and washed it out.

It took Phantoms just 55 seconds in the final session to draw level once more. Lightning paid for e of failing to clear their zone and Bebris seized the chance to score.

It proved to be the last Phantoms goal as Lightning edged in front again on 49mins 56secs - Horava pushing the puck up the right for Kostourek to once more launch a perfect powerblast from the blue line to the far side of Auzins.

Huppe then made sure of victory with his accurately placed empty netter at 59mins 45secs.

The following day at Altrincham Lightning fell behind to Phoenix when Adam Walker supplied Bobby Chamberlain to send a shot past Wall on 9mins 44secs.

When Phoenix’s Ben Wood was sin binned for tripping Lightning had a couple of good chances to level on the powerplay - both Hook and Huppe testing home netminder Stephen Fone without success.

With just over a minute of the first period remaining the visitors suffered a blow when defenceman John Connolly received a game misconduct penalty for high sticks - adding to the continuing absence of fellow injured back liner Michael Farn.

Manchester made the most of the resulting powerplay thanks to Robin Kovar who made it 2-0 at 19mins to give the hosts a clear cushion at the first break.

Things didn’t get much better in the second session which ended 3-0 to Phoenix - the third goal coming on 37mins 27secs when Shaun Thompson was assisted by Frantisek Bakrlik and Kovar.

Nick Poole’s men eventually got on the score sheet when Leigh Jamieson netted on 45mins 51secs but it was not long before Phoenix restored the gap with a goal from Tony Hand at 47mins 43secs.

Kovar rounded off the scoring with a shorthanded strike at 51mins 53secs.