The Peterborough Phantoms will be starting their planning for next season as the play-offs begin, having missed out on the end of season party by the slimmest of margins.
After 54 games the final league table has the Peterborough Phantoms in 9th place, 8 ahead of bottom club Slough, and tantalisingly, only a single point behind play-off bound Bracknell.
As we headed out of the rink in Bracknell late on Sunday night, a few Bracknell fans in the upper tier gave us a little wave, safe in the knowledge that they’d made the pay-offs, and the Phantoms season was over. Nevertheless, the majority of the hardy band of Phantoms’ travelling support left Berkshire with smiles on their faces after seeing an entertaining, and surprising competitive tie that went a little way towards making up for the disappointment from the night before.
The die was cast on Saturday evening when the Phantoms eventually fell at home to the 2013-14 EPL champions, the Manchester Phoenix. Only a matter of weeks ago, on 6th March, the Phoenix had been beaten in Peterborough and will have arrived in Bretton wanting to finish the season on a high. At the end of the evening, that’s exactly what they did, coming from behind on 2 occasions to nick the overtime winner, after Luke Ferrara had given the Phantoms a first period lead and Darius Pliskauskas put the home team ahead for a second time after 31 minutes.
Whilst the Phantoms had taken their chances earlier in the month, on this occasion the forwards couldn’t get the job done, and the Phoenix’ netminder, Stephen Fone, was on top form, repelling the Phantoms time and again.
For a 3rd consecutive game the Phantoms’ powerplay was toothless. It wasn’t until the 3rd period that a penalty went in the Phantoms’ favour, but when it did they struggled to set up effectively and on their second powerplay Manchester scored short-handed through Psurny, much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
With something like 14 minutes to go it felt like this leveller had taken the wind out of the Phantoms’ sails, though Kamil Jarina, making only his 3rd appearance between the pipes for the Phantoms, kept the scores level with some excellent goal tending, before the game exploded after what seemed to be a high hit by Heron on Luke Ferrara (judged as a check to the head and subsequent ‘game’ penalty), for which Declan Balmer sought retribution.
Late in the game Marc Levers was hauled down by Schnabel whilst the team were on another powerplay but the resulting penalty shot was put wide and with a tense 4th period ticking away, Frantisek Bakrlik scored the winner.
The Phoenix showed quality when it mattered, with Kovar particularly impressive, and worked their powerplay well. Congratulations to them on their title.
For the 9th time this year the Phantoms were defeated after regulation time, and given the eventual single point margin between 8th and 9th place it is clear that opportunities have not been taken.
Final score: Peterborough Phantoms 2-3 Manchester Phoenix (OT)
With the Bracknell Bees facing off 30 minutes after the Phantoms it lead to a frustrating, and ultimately, disappointing end to the evening. Despite the fact that the MK Lightning led on 3 occasions, the Bees fought back, and won the tie in overtime, finishing the Phantoms’ season in an instant.
For Phantoms supporters the night finished as it always might’ve – with the Phantoms out of the play-offs and leaving the away fixture in Bracknell a dead rubber.
Sunday saw the second Phanforce away trip of the season, and the venture can only be described as a resounding success. Support for the Phantoms has been good all year, despite the fact that the team have struggled on the ice, and the positive impact of the initiatives that have been introduced this year bode well for the coming season.
Given the result on Saturday, quite naturally the bus was relatively subdued at the start of the journey, but the Phanforce team have done a good job on providing in-travel entertainment, and by the time the supporters got to Bracknell they were in fine voice.
The Phantoms went into the fixture 5-0 against the Bees, though after 12 minutes it looked like the Bees would break their Phantoms’ hoodoo as they raced to a 2 goal lead. The Phantoms tied up the period through Luke Ferrara on a powerplay (at last, after drawing a PP blank in the 3 previous games!), and a James Ferrara ripper.
After the second buzzer, pushing and shoving behind the Bracknell goal led to that rare sight of the 2 netminders facing up in an entertaining end to the second period. Both sets of supporters got behind their man (King for the Phantoms and Mettam for the Bees) in an even contest that provided a touch of excitement after a scoreless 20 minutes.
There were no further goals until the final moments – with 18 seconds left, popular veteran defenceman, James Hutchinson managed to get on the end of a pass from Captain Ferrara to finish the season with a victory.
Final score: Bracknell Bees 2-3 Peterborough Phantoms
At the end of match presentations, we saw Marcel Petran dispute his Man of the Match award vociferously, and the team get an equally rousing send-off from the supporters. The Phantoms’ fans got a road win, a goalie fight and a 6-0 whitewash of the Bees, and headed back to Peterborough in the knowledge that the planning for next year has already started, after Coach Koulikov’s comments following the game on Saturday which pointed to changes in the roster.
Disappointing to miss the play-offs? Certainly, but the league table doesn’t lie. Good luck to the Bees in their play-off adventure.
Though there have been some off nights, most notably and crucially last weekend against Milton Keynes, the form under the new coach since Christmas has suggested that further progress is possible, though this will depend on the nature of the team that the coach puts together.
The new season will be a long time coming.
Come on you Phantoms!
The Peterborough Phantoms can be found online at http://www.peterboroughphantoms.com/
You can also follow the club on Twitter at @GoPhantoms
If you have any comments or observations I’d love to hear from you. Find me on Twitter at @phil_smith66 and follow for regular Phantoms updates.
Member since: 29th October 2013
I'm an avid Peterborough Phantoms fan, bringing you news and reports from our local ice-hockey club