Solent Devils put up a brave fight before going down 3-1 to National League division one south leaders Chelmsford Chieftains.
The Devils were without player-coach and leading points scorer Alex Murray for the clash at the Gosport Ice Arena on Sunday.
But they matched their high-flying rivals for the first two periods before succumbing to defeat.
The Chieftains have only lost once on the road this season and started in aggressive fashion.
The Devils stood strong, though, until the visitors broke the deadlock on 10 minutes through Matthew Turner.
Turner scored a rebound after Devils netminder Christian Cole had saved a shot from Cameron Bartlett.
The second period was fiercely contested but neither side could make their effort count.
The game then came to life in the third when Andrew Magee sent the home fans in raptures as he tied the game.
Mitch Murray led a breakaway before finding Alex Trendall, who in turn teed up Magee.
With the scores level, the Chieftains attempted to up their game.
And after a spell of sustained pressure, which saw both teams lose a player to the sin bin following a goalmouth scramble, they regained the lead.
Julian Smith won a face-off and sent the puck to the league’s top scorer Juraj Huska, who took it behind the Devils goal.
He then had the vision to find Olegs Lascenko to fire home.
Seconds later Ben Lock was controversially sent out for holding – giving the Chieftains a power play.
And the away side made it count.
After swiftly moving the puck around the Devils zone, new signing Billy Phillips struck a hard shot that bounced off Cole’s chest.
The rebound was once again picked up by Turner and he coolly knocked it past the netminder to make the score 3-1.
The hosts could not respond in the three minutes remaining of the game.
The Devils are on the road again this weekend.
They travel to Gillingham outfit Invicta Dynamos, who sit second in the table, on Sunday (5.15pm).