Phantoms continue to improve under Coach Koulikov
20th January 2014
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This was a weekend where results went as most Phantoms’ fans probably anticipated that they would do.  Most observers would probably have had the Phantoms down for an away defeat in Basingstoke on Saturday, and a home win against the Bees from Bracknell on Sunday evening.  And despite the fact that that is exactly what we got, and there is every sign that the play-off push is alive and kicking, it hides one or two stories that are worth looking back on.

Basingstoke a pushing for the EPL title, and finish the weekend in second place, equal on points with Manchester, having played 3 games more.  They score a few (an average of 3.8 per games), and concede even fewer (an average of 2.9), and the Phantoms got off to a storming start, racing to a 3 goal lead in just over 3 minutes, through the power of the triple P imports – Piatak, Pliskauskas and Petran. 

Unfortunately for the City side, the Bison responded with 4 unanswered goals of their own, before Levers levelled the scoring midway through the final period.  Karpov scored his third, and the winning goal, with 10 minutes to go, and despite Koulikov switching King for the debutant goal tender Jarina on a powerplay with a couple of minutes to go in order to preserve 3 the import skaters on the ice, and Skinns saving from a Pliskauskas penalty shot in the final minute, the Phantoms couldn’t find a way through.

Sunday saw the Bracknell Bees visit Bretton, desperate for revenge following the Phantoms’ victories in each of the previous meetings this season, most recently a 4-2 victory in The Hive at the start of January.  Jarina made his bow in front of the home fans, while the Bees were missing their physical presence in the form of #82, Chris Wiggins.  In fact, the Bees looked short benched compared to what appeared to be an embarrassment of riches for the Phantoms, the visitors icing only 13 skaters in addition to 2 net minders.

The first period set the tone for the rest of the game and pointed to the importance of the fixture for both sides.  Despite the fact that the Phantoms started well, the Bees were in no mood to roll over.  Player-coach Smital was the Bee in the ointment as far as Kamil Jarina was concerned – catching the Czech with a skate and on 2 occasions getting too close with his stick whilst trying to free the puck up.  The Phantoms had a Koulikov goal washed out following the first of a couple of occasions when the Bees’ #83, Strycek, tried the patience of the Phantoms’ support by lying motionless on the ice after a check.

With 6 31 left in the opening stanza, Weldon was called for charging by Joy Johnston and the Bees got the go-ahead goal on the subsequent powerplay, as Thompson blasted one in from the blue line.  On this occasion, the Phantoms fought back to take a commanding 3-1 lead as the Bees took 2 penalties in quick succession; Luke Ferrara and Darius Pliskauskas notched the powerplay strikes, and Erik Piatak found a way through on a breakaway, with 26 seconds left to give the Peterborough side a two goal lead on the buzzer.

As has been the case in previous games, including the game in Basingstoke the night before, holding on to a lead is proving to be as difficult, if not harder than getting the lead in the first instance.  Bracknell scored almost as soon as the second period had started, and the Phantoms were rocking; at this stage the game could’ve gone either way.

Who else should save the day (or at least the period), but experienced D man, James Hutchinson, scoring from a terrific Koulikov pass that left a huge, gaping void in Annetts’ goal.  Hutch had just put a slapshot wide, but was not to make the same mistake this time, restoring the 2 goal cushion, and kick starting the Phantoms’ period. 

The attacking intensity increased considerably as the Phantoms looked to overpower a side that were proving to be difficult to break down.  The Ferrara brothers, Luke and James, both hit the net as the Phantoms raced to a 6-2 lead (the latter from a Petran boomer on a powerplay), before Smital cut the home side’s lead, with a deflected shot that looked a soft goal to concede, giving the Phantoms a 6-3 lead at the start of the third period.

It isn’t easy being a Phantoms fan at times; a 6-3 lead with 20 minutes to go in a must win game versus a key play-off rival should be a time to close the games down and see the opposition out.  What did happen, of course, is that Bronniman struck twice for the visitors, leading to one or two bitten finger nails.  To lose this game would’ve been unthinkable given the 3-1 and 6-2 leads, and Marc Levers finished the Bees’ challenge with an empty net goal, after Annetts had been pulled with seconds left.

Final score:  Peterborough Phantoms 7-5 Bracknell Bees.

The result narrows the gap between the Phantoms and Bracknell to 2 points, with the Bees having played 2 games more, and puts the Phantoms on the same points as ninth placed Slough.  Though there are plenty of points to play for, the final play-off spot looks to be a straight fight between Bracknell, Slough and the Phantoms.  The Phantoms’ form is pretty good, though there’s a stiff challenge next weekend against the much improved, Aaron Nell inspired Wildcats, and the Basingstoke Bison, who visit Peterborough on Sunday. 

Jarina faced 20 shots in the second period against the Bees, and 41 in total, illustrating the defensive frailties that all of our net minders have faced this year.  More of the same again next weekend will make any points hard to come by.

Before I sign off, a couple of closing thoughts.  

  • Jarina looked solid, made some great stops, and it looked like he could do little about the Bees’ goals, as he was screened by the Bracknell forwards.  The import nettie debate is alive and kicking, but by all accounts, and certainly based on the couple of games we’ve seen him play in Peterborough this year, Jarina is a quality player.
  • Piatak continues to look like an EPL top 10 goal/point scorer (the only player from a bottom 5 team, barring Rick Plant at Telford who racked up most of his points in Guildford).
  • I’m impressed by Koulikov’s play and his coaching.  I’d like to think we could make the play-offs this year, but the future, under Slava, looks bright.
  • It’ll be interesting to see how new signing, Danny Woods, formerly of the Steeldogs, Stingrays and Steelers and most recently, Neusser EV in the German Oberliga, fits in.  I’m wondering if he’s here for the big push this season or with an eye on the longer term.
  • I genuinely think that Slava believes we will make the play-offs, and then anything can happen in play-off hockey.  I’m inclined to agree with him; teams won’t fancy playing the Phantoms as they continue to improve.

Come on you Phantoms!

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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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