As we enter the last few weeks of the season (there are only 7 regular season games left this year), each game is of paramount importance. Games against the 2 or 3 play-off rivals are crucial to the Phantoms’ objective on hitting the top 8 in the 10 team EPL.
This weekend the Peterborough Phantoms served up results that echoed those of a week ago – a heavy defeat on the road on the Saturday, and an exciting, battling showing at home on Sunday. Last week Swindon dished out the beating, only for the Phantoms to rally to beat Basingstoke, this week the Slough Jets deservedly won at home, before the Swindon Wildcats succumbed in Bretton.
The result means 2 points separate the bottom 3 clubs, Bracknell, Slough and Peterborough (in that order), with the Bees having played 2 games more than the Phantoms. Another weekend gone and the Phantoms are still bottom, and the play-off places remain tantalisingly close.
In truth, the victory against the Aaron Nell inspired Swindon Wildcats rescued a weekend that had shown every sign of seeing the club wave goodbye to the play-off race. Returning to Slough for the first time since joining the Phantoms in December, Coach Koulikov must’ve been disappointed with the team’s showing.
For those supporters who haven’t been to Slough before, it isn’t called ‘The Hangar’ for nothing. The rink is compact and relatively bare, with 5 or 6 rows of bench style seating tiered with at a very shallow angle, giving spectators little height with which to see the action on the ice.
On this occasion the arena seemed sparsely attended, with the Jets’ fans perhaps apprehensively wondering whether the Phantoms would overhaul them in the league. They shouldn’t have worried. The game started evenly enough, with the Phantoms appearing to play with a cautious and cagey approach, perhaps understandable as they were the away side.
Padelek opening the scoring after 6 minutes and Tvrdek extended the Jets’ lead a couple of minutes later. The Phantoms were rocking; a flurry of penalties were called (Levers & harshly, Sladok), and though Koulikov saw a 1 on 1 well saved by Myers, the Jets had further chances to extend the lead, hitting the post and Mindy Kieras missing an open goal. The Jets were 2 up at the first buzzer, with the Phantoms on the ropes. The first goal of the second period would be crucial.
The Phantoms upped their intensity from the tame showing in the first period and pushed hard for the goal that could swing momentum back in their favour. Chances fell to Luke Ferrara, Pliskauskas, Soar and Levers, but it was the Jets that struck again, Waller beating King high on the glove side, and Padelek swiftly added another, on a powerplay after Will Weldon was called for tripping. After 31 minutes our old friend Alan Lack compounded the Phantoms’ misery; a blue line powerplay goal that absolutely finished the games as a contest.
In the third period, the Phantoms scored through Danny Wood’s first for the club, and again through Pliskauskas, to reduce the deficit, and Damien King spectacularly saved a Padelek penalty shot, before Tvrdek notched an empty net goal.
Final score 6-2.
The evening was a pretty chastening experience. Despite being on a good run, and surely going into the game with some confidence after beating Basingstoke the week before, it never really felt as though the Phantoms got out of first gear against a side that we should’ve competed with far more. At the start of the first period, and in the second, there was little between the teams, but the Jets took their chances and were able to control the game. On the other hand, Phantoms chances went begging, and they came up against Joe Myers, a top quality netminder who has just been unceremoniously released by the Elite League’s Cardiff Devils.
Myers caught everything, gave very little up in terms of rebounds, and was a worthy Man of the Match. Koulikov and Pliskauskas were returning to Berkshire for the first time since they became Phantoms , and are still no closer to knowing which one of their teams this season will make the top 8.
Moving on to Sunday …
The game against the Wildcats was everything that the game against Slough wasn’t. A bigger, noisy home crowd cheered a much more revved up Phantoms side to a 3-0 lead by the end of the first break. All the 17s: #17 and captain, James Ferrara opened the scoring on 17 minutes 17 seconds, to be followed quickly by a Darius Pliskauskas brace, the first after Marcel Petran skated coast to coast to set the Lithuanian up, before Pliskauskas unleashed a bullet moments later beating Stevie Lyle up high. The Phantoms were on fire and couldn’t have wanted the period to end. After the disappointment of the night before, this period, possibly more than any other in recent weeks was a real statement of intent.
The teams traded penalties at the start of the second period and Danny Wood almost extended the Phantoms’ lead on short-handed breakaway, but it was Sandvik who notched for the Cats following a rebound to reduce the arrears at the end of the period.
After 10 minutes of the final period, Jonas Hoog and Ryan Watt had levelled the scoring. Momentum was firmly with the Wildcats, clawing back a 3 goal deficit left the home side reeling. The game could’ve gone either way; the Wildcats have the offensive weapons to trouble any side in the EPL, and were forcing the Phantoms onto the back foot, before a couple of penalty calls on the Cats turned the game to the Phantoms’ advantage. Lyle saved brilliantly from an initial opportunity, before James Ferrara swept home as the Phantoms swarmed around the veteran netminder’s goal to score the final, and decisive goal, finally making their man advantage count.
In the final minute the Cats pulled Lyle to try to force the equaliser, to no avail.
Final score: 4-3.
Home ice advantage, yet again, swings it for the Phantoms. The performance was everything that the home support would wish it to be, and keeps the team in the hunt for 8th spot. The team were committed; they played with pace and power, defended well and took their chances. Hutchinson and Piatak had returned to the ranks and contributed significantly as the Nell, Hoog, Sandvik and Kostal juggernaut was stalled.
It is worth noting that against the Cats there were only 24 shots on King (compared to the 42 on Lyle), and in Slough, despite the final result, there were fewer shots on King than Myers.
Given that Nell has taken the EPL by storm since returning to Swindon in late December, and he and Jan Kostal lead the ‘points per game’ averages table, it is testament to the Phantoms defence that the pair didn’t score anything in this game.
Can the Phantoms get anything in Sheffield and at home to Guildford next weekend? The Steeldogs come off a single game weekend where they lost 4-3 to Basingstoke, in a game with 110 penalty minutes, and the Flames are inconsistent. With the Jets playing the Bees again, the Phantoms need a couple of points to stay in touch.
Come on you Phantoms!
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Member since: 29th October 2013
I'm an avid Peterborough Phantoms fan, bringing you news and reports from our local ice-hockey club