Home comforts have been hard to come by for the Phantoms, though there are plenty of positives for the City’s premier ice hockey club as 2013 comes to an end. The Phantoms have a great deal to do if they are to make the end of season paly-offs, yet new coach, Slava Koulikov, will be encouraged by what he has seen over the Christmas period.
After a couple of near-misses, against Guildford and Manchester, and the disappointment of dropping points against the MK Lightning on Boxing Day, the Peterborough Phantoms finally snapped their 7 game losing streak, in defeating the Telford Tigers on Saturday evening.
The City side prevailed 5-3 in a game that saw them start strongly, before being pegged back seconds before the first buzzer. Piatak scored on a powerplay moments after the Tigers had dinged the post on a powerplay of their own, and despite Coach Koulikov’s cautionary words regarding conceding at the start and at the end of periods, McKenzie levelled with 14 seconds to go until the first break.
Belief is all important; would this setback see a change in momentum and the all too familiar second period struggles?
Happily for the Phantoms’ fans this was not to be the case. Despite the fact that Rick Plant scored for Telford with two minutes to go, the Peterborough side dominated the a feisty period, scoring 3 goals of their own, through Soar, Petran (PP goal) and Luke Ferrara (finishing a lovely move off a rebound from a shot by Pliskauskas), to take a 4-2 lead into the final period. Following Soar’s strike, which seemed to take an age to cross the line, tempers flared, with Greg Pick defeating Tigers’ James Smith in the first fight we have seen for a while.
Telford hit the pipes again at the start of the third period, and notched a second unanswered goal to make the score 4-3 with over 15 minutes to go before James Ferrara restored the home team’s 2 goal cushion, with another powerplay goal with just 4 minutes to go.
A real feature of this game, and the others since the new coach has taken over, is the work by special teams. We have seen a strong powerplay (scoring 9 PP goals in the last 5 games), and an impressive penalty kill. Late in the third period against Telford, the Phantoms saw off two consecutive two minute penalties, just at a time when the visitors were looking to hit back against a team that hadn’t seen a home victory since 3rd November. This followed an excellent 5 minute penalty kill against Milton Keynes earlier in the week. The Phantoms appear to be more measured in going forward; defence has clearly been an issue, and the evidence of this game was that the D held a less high line that had been the case under Coach Kynaston. Packing the neutral zone in a trap defence can reduce scoring, but hopefully will reduce the goals against tally too.
James Ferrara was Man of the Match, though this victory was built on a great team effort; mixed emotions of elation and relief were palpable at the final buzzer. The Phantoms had managed to beat their closest rival, despite Telford’s recent high profile signings.
The whole rink was rocking throughout the game. Despite the team being on a poor run, and disappointing on Boxing Day, the Phantoms’ fans again turned up in numbers and were terrific in their support for the team. It was fantastic to see the number of fans that Telford brought as well; they got behind their team and helped create a real atmosphere in the old barn.
Phantoms climbed off the bottom of the table, for 24 hours at least, and despite losing to the Manchester Phoenix on Sunday, remain one point off the final play-off spot, though rival teams have games in hand.
As we close out the calendar year, and as we have just passed the halfway stage in the season, I thought I’d nominate my Phantoms’ ‘Three Stars’ over the season so far. Despite the lowly league placing, there have been positives too; the performances against Telford, Manchester and Guildford gave hope, as did the two games against Basingstoke earlier in the season. The young players have impressed - Rob Ferrara has done a good job, as have Hook, Weldon and Damien King, the latter in difficult circumstances. Both Luke and James Ferrara have point hauls that would see them handily placed amongst the Phantoms rivals too.
However, my Peterborough Phantoms ‘Three Stars’ nominations at this stage of the season are:
1. Marcel Petran – top point scoring D man in the EPL (31), top points scoring D man by points per game average (1.19), an awesome slapshot, and a guy who seems to want to play for the Phantoms.
2. Marc Levers – initially lining up on defence, Marc came into his own moving further forward. He shows great stick handling, can finish a check, and has time for the fans too. The goal that Levers scored against Guilford on 15th December was my favourite strike this year so far.
3. Erik Piatak – despite something of a fallow period immediately before Koulikov’s arrival, Erik is the Phantoms’ top point scorer and has, at times, displayed sublime skills. For goals and assists alone, Piatak makes the top three.
Come on you Phantoms!
The Peterborough Phantoms can be found online at http://www.peterboroughphantoms.com/
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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