Read on for tales of a double defeat against the MK Lightning for Slava Koulikov’s Peterborough Phantoms and for details of the first away trip for the official supporters’ club, Phanforce. The Phantoms are still in with a shout of the play-offs as we approach the final weekend of the season, and as you’ll see, when your back is against the wall you do as much straw clutching as possible. For me, this was by keeping in touch with games in Manchester and Bracknell on Sunday evening, as the Phantoms played out a 5-2 defeat.
The penultimate weekend of the regular season saw the Phantoms match up against their closest and fiercest rivals, the Milton Keynes Lightning, who are playing their home games in Coventry whilst their own rink is refurbished.
This gave Phanforce, the newly formed Peterborough Phantoms’ supporters club, the opportunity to run their first away trip. A bus full of excited passengers headed off for the Skydome, part of an excellent support of something in the region of 130 travelling fans, hopeful that this wouldn’t be the final time this year that they get to see the home of the Coventry Blaze, with the end of season play-offs just around the corner.
After a few excellent rounds of ‘bus bingo’, superbly called by our Gala Bingo wannabees, a stop off at a local hostelry for light refreshments and the usual discussion of the teams’ chances and the relative merits of the two outfits, the game got under way. With the Bracknell Bees not playing until Sunday this was the Phantoms’ game in hand on the Berkshire side, with the 2 teams separated by a couple of points.
Despite a strong start, the opening period saw the Phantoms on the defensive. After 11 minutes the Lightning forwards broke quickly and Marcel Petran, so often the saviour this season slid through the forward, Damien King and the net in an attempt to clear the danger, only to lie prostrate on the ice. The Phantoms held their breath, but fortunately Petran was fit to carry on. Penalties were traded toward the end of the period, but surprisingly and somewhat rarely given recent form, the Phantoms’ powerplay was toothless and the period finished scoreless, with the closest anyone got ex-Phantom Tom Carlon hitting the bar, though the puck clearly bounced away, much to the disappointment of the MK fans.
The start of the second period was error strewn, with both sides off their game. It was looking increasingly as though a mistake or act of superior skill would break the deadlock. Tom Soar hit the bar for the Phantoms and Hedley made a terrific glove save from the same man, but chances on goal were hard to come by. Stan Lascek scored the Lightning’s opener after almost 7 minutes of the period and as we edged towards the second buzzer the Phantoms’ net led something of a charmed life.
The Phantoms were up against it, but against the run of play Will Weldon smuggled the puck over the line to level the scores, 1-1 after 2.
The 3rd period saw the Phantoms’ 4th, 5th and 6th scoreless powerplays, and late in the piece Koulikov scythed down the rushing MK forward, attacking short-handed as the visitors struggled to get things going. I’m never sure whether a penalty shot ought to be awarded in these circumstances; it looked a distinct possibility from the stands, but nothing was given other than the penalty for Slava for slashing.
A full 59 seconds later Damien King was called for ‘delay of game’ after kicking the net off its moorings when making a save, and the Lightning were 5 on 3 for 30 seconds. That initial advantage was killed, though MK got a break through to take the score to 2-1 with another Lascek strike through traffic, which was followed up with an empty net goal, with King barely off the ice before the puck hit twine.
The Phantoms didn’t get out of second gear and were beaten by an efficient and solid, if not spectacular Milton Keynes side for the 5th time this year.
Final score: MK Lightning 3-1 Peterborough Phantoms
Following a good run of form, culminating in the victory at home against league leaders Manchester, the Phantoms were going into this weekend’s MK double header with optimism, though having been beaten in all 4 of the games against Nick Poole’s side it was never going to be straightforward, despite the promise of play-off positions at stake.
On Sunday, the home game started in the way you might expect from a local derby. It was frenetic stuff, with the home crowd, as usual, right behind the team.
In other news, the Bracknell Bees were facing off against the Swindon Wildcats with hopes of putting 8th place beyond the Phantoms, and in Manchester, there was a 1st v 2nd match up, as the Phoenix were attempting to win the title on home ice, before visiting Bretton next weekend.
What ensued was a frustrating evening all round. The Phantoms took the lead after 7 minutes when Piatak rifled in following good work from James Ferrara and Koulikov to create the opening that the early pressure merited. Less than a minute later, Leigh Jamieson found Blaz Emersic, so often a thorn in the Phantoms side, unmarked in front of King, and the Slovenian levelled the score easily.
Real time: 6.02pm
Phantoms still in 9th place, Bees v Wildcats just starting, Manchester level with the Bison at the top. The Phoenix will need to come to Peterborough next weekend and win. Things are looking tough.
The second period in Peterborough saw Hedley (MK’s Man of the Match in both games over the weekend) save smartly from Koulikov through traffic, and after almost 5 minutes of the period Zatopek scored the go-ahead goal for the Lightning, whose lead was doubled with 5 minutes to go when Michael Farn hit a blueliner through the defence, the screen, and Damien King, to put the Phantoms’ backs against it for the second night running.
Real time: 6.30pm
A break in play in due to a bent door and sheet of plexi gives us the chance to check scores elsewhere. Phantoms trailing 3-1 suggests that there is much to be done, Bees still level in their game, so too the Phoenix. As you were.
The remainder of the second period was concluded with strange and missed calls, a flurry of penalties, chances going begging, and increasing home support frustration with the officials, the Phantoms misfiring powerplay and the impending result. MK’s Tom Carlon took a ‘check from behind’ penalty for an ugly hit on Marc Levers. It takes a lot to rile James Ferrara, but this did the trick. Ferrara took 2 for roughing as a result.
Unlike on Saturday, where MK outshot the Phantoms 1.65:1, on Sunday the shots on goal were much more even (Phantoms SOG 35, MK SOG 38).
Real time: 6.55pm
Bees still 0-0, Phoenix 2-2 with Bison. They’re going to need something on Saturday.
Real time: 6.57pm
Phoenix are now 4-2 up, and close to winning the league on home ice. Could work out for the Phantoms if, (clutching at straws here) there is less pressure on them to get a result next weekend. The Bees are 3 points ahead of the Phantoms, with 2 to play.
No sooner had the final period started than Zatopek took a ‘delay of game’ penalty, the puck hitting a member of the crowd, but yet again the Phantoms couldn’t make their man advantage count, which has been the story of the beleaguered Phantoms this weekend.
Both Will Weldon and Marc Levers went close short-handed for the Phantoms, but the pressure was to no avail, as Carlon scored to give the away team a 4-1 lead. The fat lady was doing her warm up exercises.
Real time: 7.37pm
The Cats have taken a lead in Bracknell. Apart from the fact that we’ve played a game more now, it’s as you were at the bottom.
With 10 minutes to go Marc Levers breathed life into the Phantoms by shooting in from the centre of the offensive zone, assisted by Weldon and Hutchinson, though on this occasion, like in too many others this year, there was too much to do. The home side gave it a go in the remaining minutes, but again were foiled by another empty net goal to give us a sixth defeat against the Lightning this year.
Final score: Peterborough Phantoms 2-5 MK Lightning
Real time: 8.09pm
Cats still winning, Phoenix look like they beaten the Bison 5-2 to win the title. Congratulations in order to them for the achievement. Please take it easy next week.
Real time: 8.18pm
Cats still winning.
Real time: 8.30pm
The Bees have fallen at home to the Wildcats, which means that the Phantoms need to equal, or better, Bracknell’s result on Saturday to set up the 8th place decider on Sunday.
This was a disappointing weekend for the Phantoms, against a tough and effective (though short-benched) MK side. If there was a time to beat them, perhaps this was it.
The Phantoms created too little over the weekend and didn’t put the chances away, yet are still in with a shout of the play-offs due to results elsewhere. It’s going to be a time when the Phantoms’ key players will need to impose themselves if further success is to be achieved this year.
Some readers may not like the fact that it’s come down to how other teams perform, and I’ll agree. But I’ll also be honest. I’d rather the Phantoms made 8th place than not, and if we squeak by Bracknell so be it. Then we’ll be in a play-off spot and no matter how small the margin, that’s the goal this year.
Let’s hope for a repeat of the performance against Manchester earlier in the month, and who’s to say next Sunday won’t be an ‘all or nothing’ decider.
See you there.
There are a few seats left on the Phanforce bus to Bracknell, leaving Planet Ice at 1.30pm on Sunday. See us on the Phanforce table against Manchester on Saturday if you are interested (£12 for Phanforce members, £17 for non-members)
Come on you Phantoms!
The Peterborough Phantoms can be found online at http://www.peterboroughphantoms.com/
You can also follow the club on Twitter at @GoPhantoms
If you have any comments or observations I’d love to hear from you. Find me on Twitter at @phil_smith66 and follow for regular Phantoms updates.
You can find other Phantoms related articles on 'beyond the blue line' at http://blueliner66.wordpress.com/
Member since: 29th October 2013
I'm an avid Peterborough Phantoms fan, bringing you news and reports from our local ice-hockey club