This might start to get trickier; after two consecutive weekends that featured heavy road defeats and courageous come-backs, the wheels came off the play-off wagon this week as the Peterborough Phantoms suffered defeats to the Steeldogs in Sheffield on Saturday, and at home to the Guildford Flames on Sunday.
There is now a 6 point gap to eighth placed Bracknell, though the Phantoms have 2 games in hand over the Berkshire club, and still have to visit the Beehive 2 more times before the season is over. The points are still there to be won, and a play-off berth is not beyond the realms of possibility, but with games quickly running out, and with half of the remaining fixtures against the Flames, Manchester, or MK, there is much to be done if we are to leap frog over 2 of the other strugglers.
This has certainly been an exasperating weekend for the Phantoms’ support, who once again turned out in terrific numbers in Sheffield, despite the not inconsiderable journey and foul weather; and again to pack the old barn on Sunday. Many would’ve assumed that the game against Guildford would’ve been a tough one – the Flames, after all, are not 3rd in the table for nothing, and games against the ‘Dogs provide their own difficulties, yet the games this weekend slipped away from a Phantoms side that struggled to show the intensity that had been seen in recent weeks in Bretton.
Games against the Steeldogs are usually entertaining affairs. Andre Payette, the ‘Dogs Canadian player coach, is the epitome of the bad guy in the old Westerns. He prowls, snarls and imposes himself physically; the only surprise is that the Steeldogs Gang don’t always wear the black outfits more usually associated with the bandits in the movies.
More often than not, when Andre ices, you are in for a physical affair, and this fixture was no exception.
The danger in writing these pieces is that you favour your own side; the opposition are always the bad guys, whilst your own team can do no wrong. It can end up as the bitter rant of the losing side.
So let’s put that to bed straight away. The Steeldogs have a number of talented players, who can play a fast paced passing game. They have one of the best netminders in the league in Sedlar, and Korhon, Bebris, Hirst, Wood and Morgan all know their way to goal. They also know how to mix it up, and of course there is a physical side to the game; you have a fair idea of how the Steeldogs will play, and you need to find a way to combat their aggressive approach.
By the time that Darius Pliskauskas netted the Phantoms’ 3rd goal midway through a low key final period, the result of the game was something of a foregone conclusion.
The Phantoms had left themselves too much to do in the 3rd following a salvo of 3 ‘Dogs goals in 2 minutes as the middle period was in its closing minutes. Pliskauskas’ strike reduced the arrears, but the 6-3 margin was too much to claw back; a Phantoms’ victory would’ve brought the ‘Dogs back into the play-off scrap, but, alas, the Phantoms’ efforts were not enough.
A moment in the 36th minute encapsulated the Phantoms’ season.
Trailing 3-1 after a first period that saw the Sheffield side add 2 goals to a 10 second flyer, a raft of penalties, a Petran goal after strong work from Piatak and Luke Ferrara, and instances where the Phantoms appeared to be victims of the darker arts, the away side did well to pull the score back to 3-2 through Ferrara (Luke) after 33 minutes.
Three minutes later, after 36 minutes, Marc Levers missed an opportunity to equalise. When the puck came loose, the Steeldogs broke quickly, went straight to the other end and Korhon scored the first of 2 Sheffield goals in 8 seconds, to see a game that was within grasp snatched away from the visitors. From almost level, to 5-2 down, within the blink of an eye.
On the evening, the Phantoms outshot the ‘Dogs, but chances came and were spurned, and the trio of 2nd period goals were enough to see off their challenge. The Phantoms couldn’t cope with the combative approach adopted by the home side and relatively little was called by the officials. Sladok was goaded (I get it), Lewis Hook appeared to be given special attention in the first (unnecessary), and Petran, frustrated by the ‘Dogs all night, limped from the ice after what appeared to be a pretty high check.
Whatever people might say about the Steeldogs’ style of play, they have the will to win, and executed their game plan well.
See? Sounds like sour grapes doesn’t it?
Final Score: Sheffield Steeldogs 6-3 Peterborough Phantoms
Another bumper crowd, boosted by the visit of members of the military and 3 local primary schools, saw the Phantoms (sporting new shirts supporting the British Heart Foundation) and Flames engaged in a frenetic opening period, which remarkably finished goalless. If anything, the Flames edged the first 20 minutes, though the Phantoms managed to keep the reigning EPL champions at bay.
After two minutes of the middle period, Marcel Petran lost possession on the Flames’ blue line, and on the resultant breakaway, the veteran, Longstaff, opened the scoring. Darius Pliskauskas, a worthy Man of the Match for the home side, showed lovely stick handling, but little came off; passing became disjointed, and following a ricochet in neutral ice, Campbell scored another for the Flames. Insult was added to injury when Kristofferson picked up a loose pass in the defensive zone, and swept home with only 2 seconds of the period left.
Three down, and with it all to do in the final period, the Phantoms came up short. After 43 minutes, Pliskauskas netted after a fine run from Piatak, but further inroads into the Flames’ advantage couldn’t be made. The industrious Wood hit the bar at a time when Phantoms’ pressure almost yielded a break through, but for a second successive game, the final period deficit was too much to overcome.
The Phantoms’ powerplay, so effective in recent weeks, was snuffed out by the Flames, though credit should also go to the Guildford PK unit. The chances were there again, but the forwards couldn’t put them away. Defensive lapses and individual errors were punished by a quick, powerful Guildford team.
Final score: Peterborough Phantoms 1-3 Guildford Flames
This was always going to be a tough couple of fixtures, but the Phantoms weren’t strong enough to prevail against Sheffield or Guildford. The teams’ tendency to show middle period weaknesses was exposed again, reinforcing that bottom of the table position.
At the death Marc Levers was helped from the ice after a collision with the boards, and Marcel Petran looked as though he was in discomfort. Hopefully, both will be fit for the coming fixtures.
In form Telford visit Peterborough on Wednesday, sitting in a much prettier (5th) position than when they last visited in late December. A repeat of that 5-3 Phantoms win would be nice, before a visit to Altrincham and the Manchester Phoenix on Saturday.
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