Boxing Day blues
28th December 2013
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A bumper Boxing Day crowd welcomed local rivals, the Milton Keynes Lightning,  to Planet Ice Peterborough, for the Phantoms’ latest fixture under Coach Koulikov.  The City side have fallen to the bottom rung of the EPL ladder and have much to do if they are to reach a play-off position.

After the optimism generated from the hard working performances against Guildford and Manchester, the atmosphere in the Peterborough Ice Arena was left as flat as the bubbly left over from Christmas day, as the Milton Keynes Lightning capitalised on an all too familiar second period lapse, to steal the points on Boxing Day.

The evening started in a disappointing way (hence the ‘Bad things come in threes), as new goal tender, Kamil Jarina, did not make his debut, as expected.  This is in no way meant as a slight on Damien King, who performed well against Manchester last week, and who put in another strong display in this fixture.  Nevertheless, it would’ve been nice to see the new guy between the pipes.  The coach wouldn’t have brought Jarina in if he didn’t feel that it would improve the backline, though more intense competition could well improve King’s game further.

Before face-off we had two delays to the start of the game (‘bad things x 2), the first from a broken sheet of plexi-glass behind one of the goals (miraculously replaced pretty swiftly by a sheet of plexi – no hardboard round here at Christmas!) and the further delay from the Zamboni receiving a towel as a rather unwanted Christmas gift.  Well done to the off-ice team for getting the game underway by 6.00 o’clock. 

So there you have it – no new netminder, and two delays to the Boxing Day fixture; bad things come in threes, so what could possibly spoil the evening now?

Well, as regulars will already know, these may be viewed as pretty minor concerns, and the reality is that despite taking a 2 goal lead earlier in the first period, with the opener greeted by the annual ‘air the bear’ and Captain Jimmy Ferrara scoring the second, MK pulled a goal back with 5 minutes to go in the period, and proceeded to capitalise on familiar frailties to score another 4 unanswered goals (3 in the second period).  A late score from Lewis Hook gave some hope of a late rally, but a Phantoms comeback never seemed likely, and on the balance of play, would’ve been undeserved.

There were positive signs against MK.  Pliskauskas looks sharp, and Piatak seems rejuvenated; there was great effort from the likes of King, Weldon, Levers, Rob Ferrara and Hook.  The Phantoms penalty kill was effective – including a 5 minute shut out following Koulikov’s ejection for high sticks drawing blood.

In the end, however, the Phantoms’ display felt too lightweight given their league position, the big crowd, and the fact that the game was against local rivals.

Simplistic though it might be, but for the Peterborough Phantoms it was another case of ‘bad things come in twos’ in the sense of this being another game where the game got away from the City side in the middle period.  Since the Phantoms’ last win, away in Slough on 30th November, there have been 21 periods of hockey – with the Phantoms winning only 5 of them.

In the 7 games since the 7-2 victory against Koulikov’s Jets, the period stats are as follows:                             

                             Played   Won      Lost        Tied

Period 1               7              3              2              2

Period 2               7              1              5              1

Period 3               7              2              2              4

Second period vulnerability is clear.  Furthermore, in the three first periods that the Phantoms were ahead in at the buzzer, they proceeded to lose the second period and eventually all three of these encounters, in a run that now stretches to a single victory in 13 games.  Things have improved under the new coach, however, with the Phantoms only losing only 2 periods of hockey (and only 1 middle period) in the last 3 games, including ties against 3 of the top 4.  Cause for a degree of optimism, then.

The Telford Tigers come to town on Saturday, buoyed by their injection of funds and acquisition of some of the top players in the league.  They have just beaten the Steeldogs twice in a Christmas double header in a winning run of three fixtures, seeing them off the bottom of the EPL, and now challenging for a play-off berth.

Koulikov has referred to the game against Telford as a ‘must win’.  It is hard to disagree. 

With no home fixture before 12th January this is the last opportunity for some time for the Phantoms to show their home fans that the play-off push is back on track.

I’m predicting a win for the Phantoms.

Come on you Phantoms!

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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. 

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About the Author

Phil Smith

Member since: 29th October 2013

I'm an avid Peterborough Phantoms fan, bringing you news and reports from our local ice-hockey club

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