The implications of this third consecutive defeat against the league’s in-form side, could be far reaching, both in the short and long term.
By the time the team skated round the rink to acknowledge the sparse crowd’s muted applause, it was clear that the optimism surrounding the Phantoms’ play-off hopes was dissipating rapidly.
Following the disappointing defeat against the Guildford Flames only 3 days before, it was essential that the Phantoms got their act together quickly against a team who had won their 7 previous games. A win would be hard to come by given the riches that Telford had at their disposal – Miller, Plant and Scott were all present, as were Walker, McKenzie and imports Kiviranta and Kuvuulainen. This is a team who have swept all before them in the last 3 weeks, and who, despite being bottom at the turn of the year, are now sitting pretty in 5th place.
Within second of the opening face-off, Tigers’ Scott McKenzie was called for a boarding penalty, much to the pleasure of the home crowd, following McKenzie’s comments about Erik Piatak’s physical approach - Piatak was involved in an incident with McKenzie in October and again against Swindon’s Shane Moore in January, though these incidents are not characteristic of the Slovakian’s play week in, week out. The resultant powerplay was killed, as were the other 4 that the Peterborough side won on the night. The Phantoms’ powerplays, so effective in recent weeks, have lost their bite – perhaps they have become too reliant on Marcel Petran, and are not showing enough of a Plan B.
Despite the Phantoms shading the early exchanges, the Tigers took the lead through a strike from former Phantoms’ favourite, Joe Miller, at the end of a pacey passing move, assisted by ex-Jet Dan Scott, and McKenzie. The Shropshire club extended their advantage with 6 21 left in the first period. As a powerplay of their own expired, Kuvuulainen deflected a blue liner past the hapless King, well screened by the Telford forwards.
The second period saw the Tigers apply concerted pressure on the Phantoms’ net. The home side’s powerplay continued to stutter, with the Phantoms nearly conceding a short-handed goal on several occasions. Pliskauskas, so often deadly in the offensive zone, was on hand to smuggle the puck off King’s goal line to prevent the Tigers extending their lead, but the killer blows were dealt early in the third period, firstly by Davies, and finally by Walker, whose shot from the blue-line beat everyone to conclude the scoring.
Visiting netminder, Thomas Murdy, returning to Peterborough for the first time since leaving the Phantoms in the December shake-up was rarely troubled, and shut out the misfiring Peterborough forwards.
Final score: Peterborough Phantoms 0-4 Telford Tigers
At the end of December these 2 teams met in an enthralling basement clash at the Peterborough Ice Arena. This tie was a world apart – a small midweek crowd had braved the elements, apprehensive following the Guildford defeat, and had nothing to cheer bar the fan who won Slava Koulikov’s British Heart Foundation shirt an auction, for £205 (well done that man, a great cause). In the weeks following that 5-3 win, Telford’s run has seen them pick up 20 points compared to the Phantoms’ 11; the Tigers’ form is excellent, and until last weekend the Phantoms’ form was good too, yet the clubs look like they are heading in different directions.
In the local press Koulikov has acknowledged how poor this performance was, and suggested that there was little in the way of competitiveness from the team. I’m sure the fans left at the end of the game would agree. For too long in the game the Phantoms didn’t get out of first gear, and ultimately couldn’t compete with an efficient, if unspectacular Tigers side.
More telling is Koulikov’s assertion that some of the team looked like they didn’t want to be playing. And this is where the supporters will have no sympathy; the Phantoms may not be a big budget side, but they have competed with the top teams in this league this season, and have the skill to do so again.
Before the game, Koulikov suggested that 7 wins out of the remaining 12 would be needed to reach the play-offs. Make that an unlikely 7 out of 11 now. This weekend sees the Phantoms involved in just one game, away against league leaders Manchester, but next weekend it is essential that 4 points are taken, against fellow 8th position battlers, Bracknell and Slough. By the time those fixtures are played out, we’ll have a really good idea of whether there is any chance of making the end of season party.
There are 2 games against Bracknell to come – with a decent run of form, and victory in those fixtures in the Beehive, there is still a chance of 8th place. Let’s start with a good showing against the Phoenix.
It looks like things have just become even more difficult for the beleaguered Phantoms. Jozef Sladok, Slovakian D man and erstwhile boxer, has joined the Finnish club, HCK, with immediate effect. So thanks to Slads, a hugely popular figure amongst Phantoms’ supporters, and good luck too. As for the Phantoms – I’m expecting James Ferrara or Marc Levers, when fit, to drop back to defence to fill the hole that Sladok’s departure leaves.
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